NEW DELHI: In a major setback to the Central government, the Uttarakhand High Court on Thursday quashed the proclamation of President’s rule in the State and revived the Congress government headed by Harish Rawat, who has been asked to prove his majority in the Assembly on April 29. The Centre is set to challenge the High Court ruling soon.
A Bench headed by Chief Justice K M Joseph came down heavily on the Centre for the March 27 proclamation under Art 356 and said the imposition of President’s rule was contrary to the law laid down by the Supreme Court.
“The soul of the matter is whether it is open to the Central government to get rid of State governments, supplant or uproot the democratically-elected government, introduce chaos, undermine confidence of the little man who stands with a white paper to cast his vote braving the snow, heat and rain. We are of the view that be it suspension or dissolution, the effect is toppling of a democratically-elected government, and it breeds cynicism in the hearts of citizens who participate in the democratic system and also undermines democracy and the foundation of federalism,” the Bench said.
Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi told Express he will mention the case on Friday before Chief Justice of India T S Thakur seeking relief. Meanwhile, Rawat has filed a caveat in the apex court, which means that before the court gives any ruling, it will have to hear him.
Allowing the petition of the ousted chief minister challenging the Central rule, the court restored status quo ante as prevailing on the day of imposition of Central rule in the State.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.
The Congress hailed the judgment as victory of democracy, even as the BJP said it was not surprised as the court was making similar observations. The BJP did not hide its unhappiness as it said the court should have refrained from commenting on the constitutional office of the President, and even appeared to question the Chief Justice’s judgment saying the case of disqualification of nine Congress MLAs was heard by a single Bench.
“When stakes are as high as this, should we throw out the petitioner on this ground of alleged suppression of fact that division of votes was sought after the Appropriation Bill was passed. What is at stake here is not just the petitioner’s government but democracy at large,” the Bench said dealing with the Centre’s argument that the petitioner did not disclose in his plea the representation by BJP MLAs to the governor seeking division of votes.
“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 Art 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. more: P7