Uttarakhand Assembly floor test stayed till April 7

In yet another twist to political developments in Uttarakhand, the Division Bench of High Court on Wednesday stayed till April 7, 2016 the floor test in the Assembly that was slated for Thursday.

Staying the order of the single judge U.C. Dhyani, the two-judge bench headed by Chief Justice K.M. Joseph posted the matter for April 6, 2016 for final hearing on the writ petition filed by ousted Chief Minister Harish Rawat challenging the imposition of President’s Rule in the State.

“In view of the consent of the parties that the writ petition be posted to 06-04-2016 for being disposed of finally, we direct that the order, which is impugned in these appeals will be kept in abeyance till 07-04-2016,” said the bench, also comprising Justice V.K. Bist, in a brief order

The Uttarakhand Assembly in Dehradun.

The order came after Attorney-General Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the Centre, strongly opposed Tuesday’s order saying courts cannot interfere with the Presidential proclamation.

“How can a floor test be ordered when a Presidential proclamation is in force and the Assembly is in suspended animation,” Mr. Rohatgi said.

The Bench noted that the AG and senior advocate Abishek Manu Singhvi, who appeared for Mr. Rawat, agreed that the writ petition which has given rise to these appeals may be “withdrawn to this Bench” and be finally disposed of.

The AG said the Centre’s counter affidavit, along with that of Centrally-ruled Uttarakhand, would be filed by April 4, 2016. The court gave 24 hours to Mr. Rawat to file a rejoinder affidavit to counter affidavits.

Earlier, the trust vote was slated for March 28, 2016 but the Centre imposed President’s rule on March 27, 2016, citing “breakdown of Constitutional machinery” in the State.

This was challenged by Mr. Rawat before the single judge U.C. Dhyani of the High Court.

The single judge, while ordering the floor test on March 31, 2016, had also allowed nine disqualified rebel Congress MLAs to participate in the voting.

Congress was unhappy and had planned to challenge this aspect of the order.

Ordering the floor test on Tuesday, Justice Dhyani had observed that invoking of Article 356 of the Constitution by the Centre was a “colourable exercise of power”.

“Democratically-elected Houses should not be demolished in such a fashion. Floor test is the only test to prove the majority,” he had said even though he ruled out staying the effect of the proclamation under Article 356 at this stage.

Advocate Nalin Kohli, who was part of the lawyers’ team representing the Centre, said the Centre will file its counter before the Division Bench on April 4, 2016 for which the other side will file its reply the next day.

Rebel MLAs’ plea put off

Meanwhile, Justice Dhyani put off hearing on a plea by rebel Congress MLAs challenging their disqualification by Speaker Govind Singh Kunjwal after President’s Rule was imposed.

Posting hearing on the disqualified MLAs’ appeal to April 1, 2016, Justice Dhyani said as per the interim order issued by him on Tuesday they have already been given relief by being allowed to vote during a floor test despite being disqualified.

The court also told them that although they have been allowed to vote in the Assembly during floor test their votes will not be treated on par with the rest of the MLAs.

An appeal was filed on Wednesday by six of the nine rebel MLAs against the Speaker’s action questioning its validity on the ground that the action had been taken after imposition of President’s rule and suspension of the Assembly.