Uttarakhand to Stay Under Prez Rule till May 3
Supreme Court says Speaker is master of House; asks Centre a series of queries
New Delhi: Uttarakhand will continue to be under President’s rule till May 3, the Supreme Court said while indicating that it would examine whether central rule could be imposed just because the Appropriation Bill was passed in an allegedly irregular manner.
“Interim order to remain in force till Wednesday (May 3),” a bench of justices Dipak Misra and Shivakriti Singh said.
The court had last week directed the Centre not to revoke the presidential proclamation. The order will now be extended till May 3, when the bench will hear the Centre’s appeal against the high court order which revived the Harish Rawat govt in Uttarakhand.
The high court had in its April 22 ruling quashed the presidential proclamation on the ground that it was not based on relevant material and revived the Rawat government. The Centre had immediately rushed to the top court against this and sought a stay on the ground that a copy of it was not available and hence it could not be given effect to. The Supreme Court bench had only on that count held off giving effect to the ruling for three days to enable all parties to the case to get copies of the order. However, on Wednesday, the bench was forced to extend the order as it did not have enough time to wrap the hearing on the Centre’s appeal. “Prima facie if we decide against President’s rule there has to be a floor test,” Justice Misra said, while extending the interim order.
Appearing for Uttarakhand assembly Speaker, senior advocate Kapil Sibal tried to prevail upon the court to at least allow the floor test on April 29. “This is a recipe for horse-trading,” he said.
But the top court refused to accede to his demand in the face of stiff opposition from attorney-general Mukul Rohatgi. The court suggested this course to the AG — let President’s rule be held in abeyance for three days and a floor test be conducted and the court be apprised of the results — but the government’s top law officer disagreed.
During the two hour-long hearing, Justice Misra posed several searching questions to the AG on the stalemate which was sparked off amid claims that the Appropriation Bill had been passed by a voice vote despite demands for a division by the Opposition BJP and Congress rebel MLAs. Justice Misra expressed displeasure over the manner in which President’s rule was imposed. Assuming that the government had lost its majority, a floor test should have been conducted instead of imposing President’s rule as this creates a dent in democracy, Justice Misra said.
“Article 356 has to be a rare phenomenon. Whether a bill is passed or not is a constitutional conception. You are venturing into an arena you are not supposed to,” Justice Misra said.