The Supreme Court on Wednesday put the Harish Rawat-led Congress government back in the saddle in Uttarakhand, allowing the central government to revoke President’s rule following Rawat’s victory in Tuesday’s floor test.
A bench of Justice Dipak Misra and Justice Shiva Kirti Singh accepted Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi’s plea that the Centre wanted to withdraw the proclamation for President’s rule in the course of the day to enable Rawat to take charge as chief minister.
As the AG submitted that Rawat had been successful in proving his majority on the floor of the House, the bench opened the results of the floor test, submitted by court-appointed observers, and declared that Rawat had secured 33 of the 61 votes.
Late Wednesday night, a Home Ministry official confirmed that President’s rule had been lifted. “The President has signed the papers for lifting of President’s rule in Uttarakhand. The official notification is being issued,” the official said.
While assembly polls in the state are scheduled for January-February next year, the Congress is learnt to be weighing the pros and cons of going for early elections to encash what it believes is a “sympathy wave” in favour of Rawat. There’s also nervousness about the state government counting on external support for its survival — it’s backed by the PDF of six MLAs.
After the court order, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi said, “Hope Modiji learns his lesson. People of of this country and the institutions built by our founding fathers will not tolerate the murder of democracy. They did their worst. We did our best. Democracy won in Uttarakhand.”
But the BJP tried to put up a brave front, saying that the Congress’s victory had been “purchased”. “This is not a victory, it has been purchased. This was a fixed match… They are trying to run a government by dadagiri. This is a crisis of their own making,” BJP spokesman Shrikant Sharma said.
In court, modifying its previous order whereby the Centre was restrained from revoking President’s rule in the state, the bench said, “Keeping in view the prayer made by the learned Attorney General, we vary the order by granting liberty to the Union of India to revoke the proclamation of President’s rule in the State of Uttarakhand in the course of the day. Needless to say, after the Presidential rule is revoked, the first respondent (Rawat) can assume the office of the Chief Minister of Uttarakhand.”
Minutes after the bench gave its nod, the Union Cabinet met briefly at Parliament House at 12.45 pm and recommended the revocation of President’s rule in Uttarakhand. The order of revocation has to be placed before the apex court on Friday.
Rawat’s counsel Abhishek Manu Singhvi and Kapil Sibal appreciated the Centre’s stand on revocation of the proclamation. “It is a very fair stand and we appreciate the learned AG for making a statement on revocation of President’s rule,” said the lawyers.
The hearing on Wednesday had started with the AG making a suo motu statement: “I have received the instructions. Mr Rawat has successfully proven the majority. We would want to revoke the President’s rule today itself.”
However, the bench clarified that the matter did not end with letting Rawat resume charge and that the Uttarakhand High Court’s judgment on quashing the Presidential proclamation will “remain alive” and will be tested on the anvil of the law and the Constitution.
“The High Court has ascribed many a reasons to arrive at the conclusion that the said proclamation was not tenable in law. It required to be scrutinised whether within the scope of judicial review, such a finding could have been arrived at or, for that matter, whether the opinion arrived at by the President of India to proclaim President’s rule at the relevant point of time was justified or not,” it said.
The bench added that another issue relating to disqualification of nine rebel Congress MLAs will also be examined in July. The MLAs had appealed against the High Court order approving their disqualification and the top court had refused to let them vote in the floor test.
“What will be the effect, if in the ultimate eventuate case the disqualification is set at naught, would be a matter of debate. We say nothing on that score at present,” it said.