NEW DELHI: In a major embarrassment to the NDA government at the Centre, the Uttarakhand High Court on Monday said the governor was “not an agent of the Centre” and that “interference in the State’s affairs was not to be seen lightly”.
Chief Justice K M Joseph made the remarks while hearing former Chief Minister Harish Rawat’s petition challenging the President’s rule imposed in the State last month under controversial circumstances.
“Can you topple a democratically elected government in its fifth year? It is the Governor who must call the shots. He is not an agent of the Centre. He had taken a call to ask for a floor test,” he said. The Chief Justice said that emergency powers should be used only in extraordinary cases.
Earlier this month, the court had rejected the Centre’s plea that the hearing be adjourned. The Chief Justice had told the Centre’s counsel that the court would not issue an order without first hearing the Centre.
The Centre imposed President’s rule on March 27, a day before Rawat was to go for a floor test, amid chaos in the Assembly after the budget was rejected.
Defending its decision, the Centre filed an affidavit saying the “Constitutional machinery had broken down in the State”. The government argued in court that the State budget was never passed in the Assembly and Speaker Govind Kunjwal had “misused his powers” by declaring a failed finance bill as passed and did not allow voting on the bill despite members asking for it. The crisis started with a rebellion in the ruling Congress, which had a wafer-thin majority in the 70-member House. The court asked the Centre’s counsel to explain why President’s rule was imposed on the State at a time when the Rawat government was in its fifth year.
The High Court asked the Centre whether it was not “totally extraneous” to be concerned over the disqualification of nine rebel MLAs, and “interfere” in the affairs of the State.
Noting that the demand for the division of votes in the Assembly when the Appropriation Bill was introduced was only a “solitary instance”, the High Court said, “Can one solitary instance topple a democratically elected government in its fourth-fifth year..? The root of the matter is that you are cutting at the root of democracy.”