Supreme Court on the Uttrakhand’s Constitutional Crisis

On Monday, the Supreme Court, responding on the ‘prayer for interim relief’ appeal by the rebel disqualified MLAs of Congress, prevented them from participating in a “trust of Vote’ in Uttrakhand Assembly where a “floor-test” is due on Tuesday.

The disqualified law makers had appealed to the apex Court that their disqualification should be stayed for “two hours” (on Tuesday), so that they could take part in the voting procedure in the floor test due on Tuesday.

On this the apex Court bench of two Justices Dipak Mishra and Kirti Singh responded, “The prayer for interim relief (for stay of High Court judgment) can be consider on the date of next hearing”.

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Disqualification under Anti-defection Law

The nine rebel MLAs were disqualified by the Speaker of the Assembly under the anti-defection law who sided with the opposition during a debate on the budget in March.

The rebels next approached the High Court and filed an appeal before it against their disqualification; the High Court, however, refused to put a stay on the Speaker’s decision of disqualifying them. In fact in the judgement Justice U.C. Dhyani said that the petitions were dismissed because the Speaker, by ordering the disqualification of rebel lawmakers, had not violated the principle of natural justice

The rebels in their plea had claimed that the Speaker had acted against the principle of natural justice by disqualifying them under the anti-defection law.

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Rebels in the Supreme Court

After the refusal of the High Court to put an stay on the Speaker’s decision and grant them relief from disqualification imposed on them and thus permit them to participate in the ‘vote of confidence’ on Tuesday, the rebels refused to the Supreme Court against the ‘single Judge’s order’.

The lawyer appearing for the rebel lawmakers pleaded to the Court that his clients (should) be permitted to vote and their vote (should) be kept in a separate sealed cover and placed before the apex Court. He argued that the single judge of the High Court had maintained the Speaker’s decision on erroneous grounds.

However, responding to questions put by the bench as to whether opposing the appropriation bill amounted to defection or not, the rebels’ counsel said that even according to the Speaker the bill was passed, as such the question of disqualified lawmakers voting against appropriation Bill did not arise.

Furthering his argument the counsel of the rebels said ‘even assuming the bill was defeated, the next natural’ consequence was the vote of confidence where the lawyers decision to vote for the motion or against it (the appropriation Bill) could have been a ground for beseeching the anti-defection law.

Replying to his plea the counsel of the Chief Minister of Uttrakhand, Harish Rawat, said that the disqualified rebel lawmakers could not directly come to the apex court as they should have moved, following an appropriate legal procedure, a division bench of the high court against the single judge’s order.

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The Supreme Court’s on Uttrakhand

The two judges’ bench of the Supreme Court, after hearing the arguments of both sides on the appeal challenging the single judge’s order, issued a notice on Monday, to the speaker and the Chief Minister. The next hearing is on July 12, 2016.

The bench, while accepting the appeal, further clarified, while modifying its May 6 order, that the principal secretary, legislative and parliamentary affairs, Uttrakhand, who is the cadre of a district judge, would also be present during the floor test along with the secretary of legislative affairs.

Background

Uttrakhand immersed into this constitutional exigency when the nine lawyers of the ruling party sided with the opposition during a debate on budget. This brought a political commotion of a sort in which the opposition claimed that as the appropriation bill could not be passed, the State Government was in minority and it led to a Constitution breakdown Uttrakhand, the Central Government imposed President’s Rule in the State on March 27, just a day before the Chief Minister was to take a ‘floor-test’ that was mandated by the Governor of the State.

This move of imposition of the President’s Rule was, however, heavily criticized and it was claimed that the centre was frying to destabilize the non-BJP Governments in States.

The matter finally arrived at the doorstep of the Supreme Court which has ordered the suspension of the President’s Rule from 10:30 am to 1 pm for Tuesday’s floor test. As per the order of the Supreme Court this ‘floor test’ is going to be videographed and overseen by an observer appointed by the court.

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