HC raps Centre for ‘interfering’ in affairs of Uttarakhand

Nainital: The Uttarakhand High Court Monday asked the Centre whether it was not “totally extraneous” for the Union Government to be concerned over the disqualification of nine rebel MLAs and to “interfere” in the affairs of the state which has to be done only in “extraordinary instances”.

“What is passing through our mind is, is it the lookout of the Central government as to what would have happened on March 28 (when floor test was to be held) in view of the changed composition and in view of the nine ousted MLAs..?

“Will it not be totally extraneous for Central government, which is ruled by another political party, to be concerned by changed composition…,” a bench of Chief Justice K M Joseph and Justice V K Bist asked Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi.

The bench was hearing a writ petition of the ousted Chief Minister Harish Rawat plea challenging imposition of President’s rule on March 26.

The bench said it (the demand for division of votes in the Assembly when appropriation Bill was introduced) was only a “solitary instance” and added “this is what is colouring our minds. Can one solitary instance topple a democratically- elected government in its fourth-fifth year… Root of the matter is you are cutting at root of democracy”.

Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi contended that the Speaker’s decision to not allow 35 MLAs to vote on their demand for division, when the money bill was introduced, amounted to “destroying democracy” as the 35 constituted the majority view.

He alleged that former Chief Minister Harish Rawat and the Speaker were “in cahoots” and “scuttled the demand for division”.

He claimed that since no vote was held, the money bill had failed and this amounted to the state government having fallen on March 18.

The court, however, said, “Governor should call the shots in a state. He is not an agent of the Centre. He is independent of politics. He had called for a floor test.”

“Whether the government enjoyed confidence can be tested in a floor test. Even if nine MLAs were disqualified, horse-trading was going on. The proper thing to do would be to order a floor test and await the results. You (Centre) are supposed to keep hands off and have a neutral stand,” the court said.

The court said the “Governor could have solved it. Why did he not call for a floor test within a day or two of March 18. Why did he not call for floor test in writing?”

“Everything has stopped (in the state). No development is work going on. Government in its fifth year. All this would not have happened. Governor could have solved it,” the court added.

In response to the court’s observations, the AG said that irrespective of what the Governor’s view was the President was entitled to take an entirely different view based on the material before him.

The AG said that the President took a call after going through the same material that was considered by the Governor.

He also alleged that the ousted Chief Minister had suppressed facts in his plea by not disclosing that he was aware of the demand for division much prior to tabling of the appropriation bill.

The AG argued that the CM’s plea instead shows that demand for division was raised after the bill was tabled and passed which was “misleading” and a “deliberate misstatement” and thus the petition ought to be dismissed.

In answer to the court’s query as to why the MLAs wrote to the Governor and not the Speaker, the AG said that they (MLAs) probably apprehended that with things ” hotting up” in the state, they were not sure how the Speaker would handle it.

He said it was not disclosed that the demand for division was made when bill was tabled as otherwise the focus would have shifted to the Speaker’s decision.