Rapping it for “introducing chaos”, the Uttarakhand High Court Tuesday questioned the Centre if it was going to look with a “magnifying lens” for an “opportunity” in state assemblies to “impose” President’s rule.
Hearing arguments on ousted Chief Minister Harish Rawat’s petition challenging President’s rule in the state and other related petitions, the bench of Chief Justice K M Joseph and Justice V K Bist asked the Union Government why it was “concerned” about the disqualification of nine Congress MLAs.
The bench said it was “irrelevant” for the Cabinet to assume disqualification as one of the grounds while recommending President’s rule.
“… you are taking away the power of an elected government… you are introducing chaos,” the judges said after Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi argued that there can be a floor test after President’s rule which is a “temporary freeze” since it gets over in two months.
“How can be it be a concern of the central government? …the defection of the Congress MLAs. You cannot take a political line. This must be clear,” the bench said.
“What the Speaker would do on March 27 could not have been divined by the Cabinet on March 26. Assuming that they did divine, it was entirely irrelevant, for the central government to take that decision (to impose President’s rule) because then it would mean that the central government would be accused to be involved in politics,” the bench said, adding “…whether it is Congress or BJP, it is immaterial for us”.
The court said if Presidents took decisions to impose their rule in states by taking note of corruption in the states, then “no state government would last for more than five minutes”.
“We talk a lot about corruption. But what do we do about it,” the bench remarked.
The court said the reason cited by the Central in the present case, and where two different political parties are at the Centre and state, may lead to a situation where the central government is “watching with a magnifying lens, where there is an opportunity for imposing President’s rule”.
The judges also said that the nine Congress MLAs will have to “pay the price” for defection and that composition was “bound to change” under the “operation of Constitution” due to the anti-defection law, and not because of any “unilateral action” of the ousted Chief Minister.
It also questioned how the central government knew that 35 MLAs would have “actually voted against the government, unless the actual voting took place”.
During the hearing, senior advocate Harish Salve, counsel for the Governor, said if the Centre has “clinching proof of corruption”, should it allow the floor test to happen or allow a “corrupt and illegal government” to function by remaining a “mute spectator”.
“The Centre cannot be hapless in such a situation and cannot be a mute spectator to blatant slaughter of democracy,” Salve said.
Concluding his arguments, Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi said a solitary instance is sufficient to impose President’s rule. “Merely because the Governor has allowed a floor test, the President need not give a second chance. When a money Bill fails, then there cannot be another chance. Therefore, the President was not bound to wait,” he said.