Floor test in Uttarakhand Assembly on March 31, ordered by a single judge of the High Court, was on Wednesday stayed by the Division Bench till April 7, giving yet another twist to the continuing political drama in the state.
The Bench of Chief Justice K M Joseph and Justice V K Bisht passed the order on a petition filed by the Centre against yesterday’s single judge directive for floor test tomorrow.
The order came after Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the Centre, strongly opposed yesterday’s order saying courts cannot interfere with the Presidential proclamation.
“By consent order, the Honourable Division Bench stayed the order of single judge till April 7,” said advocate Nalin Kohli, who was part of the team representing the Centre.
The next date of hearing before the Division Bench is April 6, he said.
Earlier, the trust vote was slated for March 28 but the Centre imposed President’s Rule on March 27, citing “breakdown of Constitutional machinery” in the state.
This was challenged by ousted Chief Minister Harish Rawat before the single judge U C Dhyani of the High Court.
The single judge, while ordering the floor test on March 31, 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 yesterday, 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.
Kohli said the Centre will file its counter before the Division Bench on April 4 for which the other side will file its reply the next day.
The matter will be heard again on April 6, he said.
“So, in effect the single judge order has been kept in abeyance till April 7,” Kohli said.
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 their appeal to April one, he said as per the interim order issued by him yesterday 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 today 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.
The Speaker had disqualified nine Congress MLAs under the anti-defection law hours after imposition of President’s Rule on March 27, a day before the Rawat government was scheduled to go for a floor test in the Assembly.