Punjab Governor Banwarilal Purohit Wednesday withdrew his order summoning a special Assembly session Thursday (September 22), which was called by the Bhagwant Mann-led Aam Aadmi Party government to move a confidence motion. The Governor cited absence of specific rules on summoning the Assembly for considering only a confidence motion.
“In absence of specific rules regarding summoning of the Assembly for considering the confidence motion only called by the Punjab government on 22nd September through 3rd special session of 16th Vidhan Sabha, I, Banwarilal Purohit, Governor of Punjab, hereby withdraw my orders dated September 20, regarding summoning of the Vidhan Sabha session,” read the order issued by Raj Bhavan.
The order sparked a sharp reaction from AAP’s Punjab co-incharge and Rajya Sabha member Raghav Chadha and Chief Minister Mann, with both questioning the Governor’s intent.
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“Hon’ble Governor’s withdrawal order raises a serious question mark on his intent. It is beyond any reasonable understanding as to why there should be any objection to a government’s decision to face the Assembly? This order further proves the sinister design of Operation Lotus,” said Chadha in a tweet.
In a tweet in Punjabi, Mann said: “Punjab Governor not allowing Vidhan Sabha session raises questions for the democracy in the country. Now, will the country be run by representatives elected by crores of people or an individual appointed by the Centre? On one side there is Bhim Rao Ambedkar’s Constitution and on the other is Operation Lotus. People are watching everything”.
The decision from Raj Bhavan, meanwhile, came after Leader of Opposition Partap Singh Bajwa, Congress leader Sukhpal Singh Khaira and Punjab BJP chief Ashwani Sharma approached the Governor, arguing that there was no legal provision to convene a special session of the Assembly to just move a “confidence motion in favour of the state government”, Principal Secretary to Governor JM Balamurugan said in a letter to the Vidhan Sabha secretary.
Balamurugan said that the matter was examined and a legal opinion was sought from Additional Solicitor General of India Satya Pal Jain. Balamurugan said that Jain opined that there is no specific provision regarding summoning of the Assembly for considering the ‘confidence motion’ only, in the Punjab Vidhan Sabha Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business.
“In the light of the above legal opinion…the Governor has withdrawn his order…,” Balamurugan further said.
However, Chadha, in another tweet said, “Governors are bound by the aid and advise of the Council of Ministers and have no discretion in these matter. Parliamentary democracy in India will come to a standstill if Hon’ble Governors start exercising discretion in matters such as the convening of Vidhan Sabha sessions”.
Minutes before the Raj Bhavan order, the AAP had issued a three-line whip to its legislators asking them to be present in the Assembly and vote in favour of the party. The whip was issued by Talwandi Sabo MLA Baljinder Kaur who was earlier named as party’s Chief Whip in the Vidhan Sabha. The AAP had also called its legislative party meeting at 9am on Thursday to formulate the strategy for the session.
Earlier in the day, Punjab BJP had said that it would boycott the special session. The party had termed the special session an “eyewash” and an “insult to the AAP MLAs” as they would have to prove their loyalty.
Punjab Congress chief Amrinder Singh Raja Warring had, responding to a media query, said, “We will reach Vidhan Sabha at 10 am. CLP leader Bajwa will hold a meeting with party MLAs and we will convey our next course of action after that.”
Former Deputy Speaker Bir Devinder Singh was the first one to raise the issue on Tuesday saying that a session, if called for confidence motion, will be illegal. Speaker Kultar Singh Sandhwan had, however, stated that the government was well within its rights to convene the session.
Quoting from page 48 of Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business of Punjab Vidhan Sabha, Bir Devinder had said, “The Section 58 (1) defines only the no-confidence motion. There is no rule which entails the confidence motion. Therefore the session is unconstitutional. Only a no-confidence motion can be tabled. The House cannot be summoned to pass the confidence motion. The special session can only be called if adequate number of members give the notice for no-confidence motion. Otherwise, it is a waste of expenditure and time. The Governor should send for the rules and business of the house before summoning it.”
Sources said that Bir Devinder had got a call from the Governor’s office Wednesday morning asking him about the the rules of Vidhan Sabha.
The ruling AAP had called the session after accusing BJP of trying to topple the government by offering Rs 25 crore each to 10 of its MLAs under “Operation Lotus”. The session was reminiscent of a similar confidence motion in Delhi Assembly moved by Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal.