NAINITAL: Dealing a major blow to Modi government, the Uttarakhand High Court today quashed the imposition of President' rule in the state and revived the Congress government headed by Harish Rawat, who has been asked to prove his majority on April 29.
Coming down heavily on the Centre for the March 27 proclamation under Art 356, a division bench of the high court headed by Chief Justice K M Joseph said the imposition of the President's rule was contrary to the law laid down by the Supreme Court.
Allowing ousted Chief Minister Harish Rawat's petition challenging the Presidential proclamation, the bench, also comprising Justice V K Bist, observed that the material considered for imposing President's rule "has been found wanting".
Upholding the disqualification of nine dissident Congress MLAs, the court said they have to pay the price of committing the "Constitutional sin" of defection by being disqualified.
Ordering restoration of the Rawat government, the court ordered the ousted Chief Minister to prove his government's majority on the floor of the Assembly on April 29.
"In the present case which was set into motion with March 18 as day one and saw a proclamation being issued in less than ten days brings to the fore a situation where 356 has been used contrary to the law laid down by the apex court.
"The material (considered for the proclamation) has been found wanting and justifies judicial review interfering with the proclamation," the court said.
The court said "however, we must not be understood to have said that a solitary instance would not contribute for imposing 356. The proclamation of March 27 stands quashed." It said status quo ante on the day of proclamation, meaning thereby, restoration of the government led by petitioner (Rawat) will revive.
The court said, however, status being restored the petitioner must necessarily obtain a vote of confidence by holding a floor test on April 29. The court also turned down an oral plea made by the
Centre's counsel for a stay on its judgement to move the Supreme Court against it. The bench said we won't stay our own judgement. "You can go to the Supreme Court and get a stay," it said. The issue came to the division bench of the court after a single judge ordered a floor test on March 28 following controversy over the passage of Appropriation Bill on March 18 with the BJP and dissident Congress MLAs claiming the money Bill had fallen and the government has lost its majority.
A day before the floor test was to have been held the Centre imposed President's Rule on March 27 citing breakdown of Constitutional machinery as a ground. Harish Rawat approached the division bench challenging the imposition of the President's Rule.
During the last three days of hearing, the court has made several strong observations against the Centre on the issue of imposition of President's Rule in Uttarakhand. It had said on Monday that the proclamation under Article 356, just a day ahead of the floor test, amounted to cutting at the root of democracy. Subsequently, it had observed that the government was introducing chaos and undermining an elected government.
Yesterday, it had maintained that the decision to impose President's Rule was subject to judicial review as even the President can go terribly wrong. Earlier in the day today, the High Court said it would be a travesty of justice if the Centre recalls its order imposing President's Rule and allows someone else to form a government now, strong words that came after its counsel was unable to give an undertaking till a verdict is given in the present case.
The court also told the Centre that it could allow the ousted Chief Minister Harish Rawat's petition challenging the imposition of President's Rule and ensure that a floor test is held. "Should we consider their application for stay moved on April 7? It was expected that till the judgement is pronounced, Central government will not recall (Article) 356.
If you recall 356 and call someone else to form a government, what else would it be other than travesty of justice," the bench said.
The strong words of the court came after the Centre's counsel said it was not in a position to give an assurance that the government would consider putting on hold the recall of its order imposing President's Rule for a week. It gave the government's counsel some time to take instructions.
The bench observed, "Otherwise you can do this in every state. Impose President's Rule for 10-15 days and then ask someone else to take oath. More than angry, we are pained that you are behaving like this. That the highest authority - Government of India - behaves like this. How can you think of playing with the court."
"What if we allow the petition? Then things would go back to what it was prior to the President's Rule and the state government will only have to prove majority by way of floor test. Can you take exception to that also?" the bench asked the Centre.