A day before confidence vote, President’s Rule imposed in Uttarakhand

Congress will challenge the decision in court, says Kapil Sibal

Updated - November 17, 2021 05:12 am IST

Published - March 28, 2016 01:39 am IST - NEW DELHI

President’s Rule was imposed on Uttarakhand on Sunday, a day before the Harish Rawat government was to face a test of strength in the Assembly, which has been placed under suspended animation.

Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley told journalists that the Cabinet took the decision on Saturday evening. “Given the political crisis in Uttarakhand, it was decided to impose President’s Rule on the State…,” he said.

However, the Congress questioned the move, with its spokesperson Manish Tewari citing the Bommai case judgment of 1994, which states that the legitimacy of a government has to be established in the Assembly.

“They [the BJP] imposed President’s Rule because they could see Harish Rawat retaining his majority,” said senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal. He told the media, “We will move the High Court.”

Top sources in the government confirmed that Mr. Jaitley had gone to meet President Pranab Mukherjee on Saturday night to communicate the Cabinet’s decision and address questions that he might have had.

“Governor K.K. Paul’s report on the constitutional breakdown was discussed in the aftermath of the sting video that showed CM Rawat allegedly involved in horse-trading,” a senior Minister told The Hindu . Mr. Mukherjee signed the proclamation on Sunday morning.

It was a ‘non-constitutional’ government, says Jaitley

Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Sunday said the actions of the Uttarakhand government — starting with the way the Finance Bill was deemed passed on March 18 despite at least nine Congress MLAs openly rebelling against the government in the Assembly — showed the government was “non-constitutional”.

“It is perhaps the first and only example in independent India that a failed Bill was passed in the Assembly without a proper vote. The government that was in power after March 18 was non-constitutional,” he told the media.

But Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari said, “A floor test is the lone constitutionally ordained method of testing the strength of a government. In case, the floor test is not possible, it is obligatory on the part of the Governor to give written reasons for not holding it.”

Sources in the Congress said the Union government had moved precipitately as the Rawat government managed to win over Independents and members of the neutral parties and the deadline set by Speaker Govind Kunjwal for the rebels to respond to the show-cause notice was about to expire.

“With nine MLAs disqualified, the Rawat government would have won the floor test anyway,” said a senior leader.

Signs of nervousness were visible in Congress headquarters on Saturday night, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi called an emergency Cabinet meet on the Uttarakhand crisis, hinting at the likelihood of President’s Rule.

Appeal to Pranab fails

Mr. Modi’s Cabinet did not reveal its cards and senior Congress leader Ambika Soni urged President Pranab Mukherjee to “find out everything and look at the greater impact of such actions [President’s Rule]” on the democratic tradition of India.

Since Ms. Soni’s appeal failed to stop President Mukherjee from dismissing the government, the party’s senior leadership unleashed a barrage of criticism on the BJP government, with some describing President’s Rule as a “murder of democracy” and others accusing the BJP of pursuing its “Congress-free India” agenda.

In his report to the President, Governor K.K. Paul said that despite opposition, the Appropriation Bill was passed in the Assembly in controversial circumstances. It charged there was breakdown of law and order and the sting operation where the Uttarakhand CM is purportedly seen offering money to rebel MLAs was found to be genuine by the Central Forensic Science Laboratory, Chandigarh.

The Ministry of Home Affairs appointed former CRPF DG Prakash Mishra and former Culture Secretary Ravindra Singh as advisers to the Governor.

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