On the last day of hearing on a petition challenging the imposition of President’s Rule in Uttarakhand, a Division Bench of the High Court told the Centre on Wednesday that though the President decided to impose Central Rule, his decision was open to judicial review.
Chief Justice K.M. Joseph said: “The power of judicial review is with courts. It cannot be with the President. In earlier times, courts wouldn’t interfere [in a President’s decision]. There’s nothing such as non-reviewability or absolute power [these days].”
He said the President could be an excellent person “but he can go terribly wrong.” Similarly, judges were also open to judicial review, he said. The Bench faulted the Congress too. “The Congress has not covered itself with glory on this… If it’s a bluff [on the part of any political party] we shall call it a bluff. We shall not mince words,” the Chief Justice said.
During the arguments, senior advocate and Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi said that there were apprehensions about the Centre’s possible decision to revoke President’s Rule before the court gave its ruling.
The Chief Justice said he hoped the Centre “will not provoke us” by revoking Article 356 before the verdict.
'President’s decision open to judicial review'
Additional Solicitor-General Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre, said: “On March 18, 35 MLAs, including nine Congress MLAs, had asked for a division of votes on the Appropriation Bill. The number  is undisputable.”
The Bench, however, noted that while the Centre claimed that 35 MLAs, including nine rebel Congress MLAs, had asked for a division of votes, there was “no reference [in the Governor’s report to the President] to nine Congress MLAs asking for a division.”
“If the Governor, in his report, has not recorded his personal satisfaction about 35 MLAs demanding division, how did the Union Cabinet arrive at the number,” the Bench said. A contentious issue arose when Mr. Singhvi, counsel for the former Chief Minister Harish Rawat, said a complaint against suspended BJP leader Bhim Lal Arya was submitted to the Speaker on April 5.
The Centre had earlier argued that a complaint against Mr. Arya had been moved before President’s Rule was imposed, but the Speaker had taken no action. However, he acted swiftly against the nine rebel Congress MLAs and disqualified them.
When the Bench asked the Centre for a clarification whether the complaint against Mr. Arya was filed before or after the imposition of President’s Rule, the Centre asked the Bench for a day to reply. However, the Bench registered this as a “deliberate” attempt by the Centre to mislead the court. “This is terribly wrong. We can only request you to refrain from doing such things again,” the Chief Justice said.