NAINITAL: Delivering a major blow to the Modi government, the Uttarakhand High Court today 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.
Coming down heavily on the Centre for the March 27 proclamation under Art 356, a division bench of the High Court headed by Chief Justice K M Joseph said the imposition of President’s rule was contrary to the law laid down by the Supreme Court.
In a lengthy judgment dictated in the open court after the Centre’s counsel declined to give an undertaking that the government would not revoke the President’s for a week for the court to give its verdict, the bench made strong observations on the Centre’s resort to Art 356 of the Constitution in the instant case.
“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 troppling of a democratically- elected government. It breeds cynicism in the hearts of citizens who participate in the democratic system and also undermines democracy and foundation of federalism,” the bench said.
Allowing the petition of the ousted chief minister challenging the President’r rule, the Court restored status quo ante as prevailing on the day of imposition of central rule, the court
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 bench, also comprising Justice V K Bist, observed that the material considered for imposing President’s rule “has been found wanting”.
“When stakes are as high as this, should we throw out the petitioner on this ground (of alleged suppression of fact that divison of votes was sought after the Appropriation Bill was passed,” the bench said.
“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 since the petitioner did not disclose in his plea the representation by BJP MLAs to the Governor seeking division of votes.
Ordering restoration of his government, the court said Rawat must necessarily obtain a vote of confidence by holding a floor test on April 29.
“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 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.
The court said “however, we must not be understood to have said that a solitary instance would not contribute for imposing 356. The proclamation of March 27 stands quashed.”
The bench said status quo ante on the day of proclamation, meaning thereby, restoration of the government led by petitioner (Rawat) will revive.
It turned down an oral plea made by the Centre’s counsel for a stay on its judgement to move the Supreme Court against it.
“There is no President’s rule now. The government has revived. We had told you to give us time (to write the verdict). But you forced us to pronounce it today. We had said we will not allow (ourselves) to be taken for a ride. We have no objection to being overruled. Yopu go to the Supreme Court and get it (judgement) stayed,” the court said.