NEW DELHI: The legal and political confusion over the Harish Rawat government in Uttarakhand ensured that he became a ‘former’ chief minister from a dismissed CM within a span of a few hours.
With the Supreme Court keeping the High Court order restoring Rawat dispensation in abeyance till April 27, President’s Rule in the State was restored once again, albeit temporarily. The whole issue rested on the fact that the Uttarakhand HC’s written order was not available to either the apex court or the parties concerned — Rawat government or the Centre which had imposed Article 356 on the State on the ground of Constitutional breakdown. Rawat had challenged his dismissal.
In the absence of a written order, the strong reprimands that the High Court Bench had issued against the Centre, embarrassing it without end on Thursday and on three consecutive days prior to that, remained a “verbal’’ matter. The written order is now expected to be made available to all on April 26.
Rawat’s move to re-assume chief ministerial charge and his holding of a State Cabinet meeting where “11-decisions were taken” as soon as the HC made its final pronouncement restoring him, appeared a bit rushed. A decision taken without going through the fine print of the order, which has now been deemed interim. This left the Congress, his party’s legal eagles at the headquarters, divided.
“He (Rawat) turned a moral victory into a legal-political tangle. It was a rushed decision to resume (power) without going through the text of the High Court order. He was clearly not well advised,’’ this came from a top Congress leader, a former minister in UPA-II government, who’s also a SC lawyer. Rawat himself had no qualms about admitting he had gone from being the “dismissed CM to a former CM’’ within a rather short span of time.
As matters stand now, the Supreme Court will take a final call on the matter at the next hearing on April 27. Before the apex court, is the high court order which it has temporarily stayed and the Centre’s contention that Rawat government failed to clear the Appropriation Bill in the Assembly forcing its hand to dismiss the government on the constitutional round, since he had not himself resigned.
This position of the Centre was expressed by the Union Parliamentary Affairs Minister Venkaiah Naidu on Friday: “We feel there was no other way than (use of Article) 356 (of the Constitution). The Assembly was not dissolved. Because there was a constitutional breakdown, temporarily President’s rule was imposed and anytime the Assembly can be revived.
“That is up to the Governor’s report and also the situation there. As far as we are concerned, we always respect the rule of law. We respect the Constitution,” Naidu said. The Uttarakhand Speaker’s decision to allow the passage of the Appropriation bill in Assembly by voice vote and the simultaneous disqualification of nine rebel Congress MLAs were “contradictory’, Naidu claimed.
Rawat’s plea had been that his government’s strength can only be tested on the floor of the house-a chance he was denied by the imposition of President’s Rule.
This view, he has taken citing the S R Bommai case. The apex court will be revisiting the issue of Article 356.