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Rawat has won trust vote, admits Centre in Supreme Court

NAINITAL,KRISHNADAS RAJAGOPAL: Marking a graceful retreat from Uttarakhand, the Centre conceded on Wednesday in the Supreme Court that deposed Chief Minister Harish Rawat has won the trust vote conducted on May 10 and President’s rule in the State will be revoked during the course of the day.

Deposed Chief Minister Harish Rawat at the Congress office in Dehradun after the end of the crucial Uttarakhand Assembly floor test on Tuesday.

The Centre said that Mr. Rawat, who had led the State’s Congress-led government before his ouster on March 27, is to be restored as Chief Minister the very moment President’s rule is revoked on Wednesday.

The concession from Attorney-General Mukul Rohatgi came even before a Bench of Justices Dipak Misra and S.K. Singh opened the sealed cover containing the results of the floor test, which was an extraordinary measure suggested by the Supreme Court to restore democracy in the State.

The Attorney-General’s admission of Mr. Rawat’s victory by a margin of 33 to 28 (for the BJP) out of a total 61 votes won him plaudits from senior advocates Kapil Sibal and Abhishek Manu Singhvi for being “very, very fair” and the Bench recorded in its order that the “Centre is wedded to democracy.”

“It is clear from the news that an orderly voting took place in the Assembly on May 10. It is clear that Respondent 1 [Mr. Rawat] won a majority. We will revoke the order of proclamation of President’s rule today itself and this assurance is from the highest quarters,” Mr. Rohatgi submitted at the very beginning of the hearing, which started at noon.

However, the apex court clarified that the petition filed by Mr. Rawat challenging the constitutionality of the proclamation of President’s rule would be kept alive and judicially reviewed.

The court would also be separately hearing nine dissident Congress MLAs who had challenged their disqualification by the Speaker for “horse trading” due to which they were unable to vote in the decisive apex court-ordered floor test. Had they voted, the numbers would have favoured the BJP in the Assembly in the trust vote.

The court indicated that in case it decides in the future that the disqualification of the MLAs were arbitrary, a second floor test would be a possibility.

“If this man [Mr. Rawat] becomes Chief Minister and supposing we set aside the disqualification of the MLAS in the future, there will have to be another floor test,” Justice Misra observed.

The court proceedings did take a diverse turn when one of the disqualified MLAs, Sheila Rani Rawat, stood up to challenge the Speaker’s power to disqualify her.

Ms. Sheila Rani Rawat, represented by advocate Manohar Lal Sharma, said President’s rule was proclaimed on March 27 morning. The Speaker announced the disqualification of the MLAs only in the evening of the same day, that is, after the proclamation of President’s rule.

“Once the State legislature is gone and President’s rule has set in, the Speaker had no power whatsoever to disqualify these nine MLAs,” Mr. Sharma argued, saying his client could not bring this point to the attention of the court as she was fighting the Uttarakhand forest fire.

Though asking Ms. Sheila Rani Rawat “why did you not come before us with this point”, the Bench chose to dismiss her writ petition.

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