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Advantage Rawat as SC bars Congress rebels from voting

NEW DELHI: The Uttarakhand High Court and the Supreme Court on Monday, refused any relief to the nine disqualified Congress MLAs of Uttarakhand, raising hopes in the Congress that the numbers in the apex court-monitored floor test on Tuesday will swing in favour of deposed Chief Minister Harish Rawat and mark the end of President’s rule in the State.

A Bench of Justices Dipak Misra and S.K. Singh said the pleas for interim relief, including a stay of their disqualification, would be considered on July 12.

The vote of confidence will now involve 27 Congress MLAs, 28 BJP MLAs, six PDF members and one nominated member. The total members to vote being 62, Mr. Rawat will need 32 votes to be reinstated as the Chief Minister.

The nine MLAs, who were disqualified by the Speaker under the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution over allegations of ‘horse-trading’, reached the Supreme Court for an interim stay soon after Justice U.C. Dhyani of the High Court refused them any relief. The judge had advised them to “approach Speaker Govind Singh Kunjwal and file a review application.”

In a hearing after court hours, a Bench of Justices Dipak Misra and Shiva Kirti Singh in the Supreme Court extensively heard senior advocate C.A. Sundaram plead that since the apex court had lifted for two hours President’s rule for the duration of the floor test, it could very well allow the nine to enter the House and cast their votes.

Mr. Sundaram even suggested that the apex court could keep the MLAs’ votes secret till they are cleared of the allegations against them. “That is remediable, but the other [not allowing them to cast votes] is irremediable,” the senior advocate argued.

‘Not a unilateral decision’

Justice Singh, however, intervened to note that the lifting of President’s rule and the floor test was ordered only because both parties – the Centre and Mr. Rawat – had given their consent. It was not a unilateral decision of the apex court.

With this, the Bench admitted the case of the nine MLAs, agreeing to hear it on July 12.

SC appoints official for floor test

The Supreme Court Bench of Justices Dipak Misra and Shiva Kirti Singh, which refused any interim relief for the nine Uttarakhand Congress MLAs disqualified by the Speaker, on Monday modified its May 6 order, which gave the go-ahead for a floor test on Tuesday.

It appointed the Principal Secretary, Legislative and Parliamentary Affairs, Uttarakhand, to conduct the trust vote in an objective and neutral manner. This eleventh-hour modification to the order came after the Centre filed an urgent application on Monday saying that the Bench had directed the ‘Principal Secretary, Legislative Assembly’ to conduct the floor test but there was no such post. Instead, there was either the ‘Secretary, Legislative Assembly’ or the ‘Principal Secretary, Legislative and Parliamentary Affairs, State of Uttarakhand’, who is also a judicial officer of the rank of district judge.

Besides, the Centre said the Secretary, Legislative Assembly, was a staffer of the Speaker, appointed by the latter and so there was an apprehension about his neutrality.

Appearing for Harish Rawat, senior advocates Kapil Sibal and Abhishek Manu Singhvi said the Principal Secretary, Legislative and Parliamentary Affairs was an ‘outsider’ and could not be invited inside the House.

The court said it would not “ordinarily” order a floor test but was obliged to do so in the Uttarakhand case to ensure that “democracy prevails.”
With Agencies

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