The Supreme Court today asked Harish Rawat (ex CM, Congress party) to take a floor test on 10th May 2016. On the question of 9 rebel Congress MLAs entitlement to vote, it left the matter to be decided by the High Court of Uttarakhand. If they win the case tomorrow when hearing is expected, rebels can vote, else they cannot. President’s Rule has not been lifted. It will be lifted for two hours from 11 am to 1 pm on Tuesday to enable conducting a court monitored confidence vote.
The Supreme Court has offered nothing new in this order. Its order is very similar to the order passed by the single bench High Court. In-fact the only difference is that it has corrected the lacunae in the lower court order. President’s Rule implies that the assembly is in suspended animation. So one can’t order a confidence vote when assembly is suspended. Supreme Court therefore ordered that President’s Rule will be lifted for two hours on the day of confidence vote.
The three top courts of the country have overturned the respective lower court orders but in the end have given very similar judgments as evident from below table.
|Point of Order||Single Bench High Court of Uttarakhand||Two Bench High Court of Uttarakhand including Chief Justice||Supreme Court|
|Date of Order||Mar. 29||Mar. 30 stayed High Court order
Apr. 21 passed below order
|Apr. 22 stayed High Court Order
May 6 passed below order
|President’s Rule||Stayed||Lifted||Stayed, lifted for only two hours on 10th May|
|Voting Rights of Rebel Congress MLAs||Allowed to vote. Their votes to be kept in separate envelope.||Not allowed to vote. Disqualification by Speaker correct.||As of today cannot vote as they were “rightly or wrongly” disqualified by the Speaker.|
|Floor Test||To be conducted on Mar. 31, court monitored.||To be conducted on Apr. 29.||To be conducted on May 10, court monitored.|
The underlying theme in all these orders is that whether a government enjoys majority or not can be decided only on the floor of the house. Hence implying that the President’s Rule imposed by center without giving Rawat a chance to prove majority was wrong. But the court has stopped at point one and not made the second point.
What happens after the court monitored floor test has not explicitly stated? Here can be only two outcomes:
- Rawat loses trust vote – In this case, President’s Rule can be allowed to stay.
- Rawat wins trust vote – In this case, President’s Rule can be quashed.
In a way, the court has played safe and not gone ahead with quashing the central rule, what would have happened if it quashed and Rawat lost trust vote.
This incident shows that higher courts passed stay orders on judgment of lower courts with amazing alacrity. Mar. 29 order stayed the next day by larger bench. Two bench order of Apr. 21 stayed by Supreme Court the very next day. This means that higher courts do not trust the capability of lower courts in jurisdiction of matters of constitutional crisis. This leaves a very negative impression in the minds of people about the whole judicial system.
So finally the trust vote which was slated to take place on Mar. 31 is scheduled to take place after forty days on May 10. This is a classic example of how justice is delayed in our system. And we have not had the last word on this yet. More twists and turns expected.
A floor test on May 10 will clear the air. Unless rebels do not get final judgment about their disqualification before 10th. They may approach Supreme Court for deferment of floor test date if High Court requires more time to dispose off their case. You never know, the highest court may allow this. So confusion to stay for people of Uttarakhand.
The Supreme Court in this matter has behaved like the difficult boss who dislikes / doesn’t trust his juniors and publicly criticizes their work but in the end uses the same work done by them in his presentations to senior management as I tweeted few days ago!.