The Division Bench of the Nainital High Court on Monday questioned the Centre's counsel on the need for the Central Government to intervene in State matters, unless in “extraordinary cases.”
The Bench, comprising Chief Justice K.M. Joseph and Justice V.K. Bisht, raised a query to Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, who was the Centre’s counsel, whether it was “totally extraneous” on the part of the Central Government, whose members were in the Opposition party in Uttarakhand, to “intervene” in the State affairs when the decision on whether the Congress government in the State would topple or stay could have been decided by the floor test, which was scheduled for March 28.
On March 18, the BJP, along with nine Congress MLAs, had asked for a division of votes on the Appropriation Bill. While former Chief Minister Harish Rawat has claimed that the Appropriation Bill was “constitutionally” passed in the Assembly, the BJP’s Central leadership had accused the Uttarakhand Assembly Speaker Govind Singh Kunjwal of showing the Bill as “passed” when 35 of the 67 MLAs present in the Assembly on March 18 had asked for a division of votes, which the Speaker had not granted.
On Monday, Chief Justice Joseph asked the Centre whether a “solitary instance [of passing or not-passing of the Appropriation Bill] could topple a democratically elected government” which was serving its last year of governance and when fresh Vidhan Sabha elections were to take place a year later.
The Centre had “cut into the root of democracy” by showing haste towards propelling imposition of President’s Rule in the State, the Bench observed.
The Bench also stated that the Governor being a “non-partisan” person and “not an agent of the Centre”, his instructions on the floor test should have been followed.
Mr. Rohatgi stated in the court that Mr. Rawat indulged in ‘horse-trading’ of MLAs to get the majority on his side. However, Chief Justice Joseph observed that a floor test would have been undertaken instead of invoking Article 356 showing constitutional breakdown in the State.
Uttarakhand Assembly Speaker has stated that the Appropriation Bill was passed on the basis of "voice votes". However, Mr. Rohatgi argued, on Monday, that “no voting” took place on the Appropriation Bill on March 18.
However, Mr. Rohatgi, while defending the Central Government's act of propelling the imposition of President's Rule in Uttarakhand, said, “There could be no bigger floor test than voting on the Money Bill.”
"Had a division of votes been allowed by the Speaker, the [Rawat] government would have fallen on March 18 itself... The Speaker defied the majority, it is the greatest constitutional sin," Mr. Rohatgi said.