NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court today ordered a floor test in Uttarakhand Assembly on May 10 when sacked Chief Minister Harish Rawat will seek a vote of confidence during which the nine disqualified Congress MLAs may be able to vote if the High Court permits them.
In a significant order detailing the modalities of the floor test to be conducted on Tuesday between 11 AM and 1 PM for the single agenda, the court directed that the nine rebel Congress MLAs, who have challenged their disqualification by the Speaker in the High Court, will not participate in the floor test “if they have the same status” at the time of vote of confidence.
Incidentally, the petition of the disqualified MLAs will come up tomorrow before the Uttarakhand High Court. If these MLAs are allowed to vote, Rawat’s fate in the 70-member Assembly may be sealed.
The apex court directed that the entire proceedings of two hours shall be videographed under the supervision of the Principal Secretary of the Legislative Assembly.
A bench comprising Justices Dipak Misra and Shiva Kirti Singh ordered that during the two hours when the voting will take place on the vote of confidence, the President’s rule will be put in abeyance and the Governor shall be in-charge of the state.
The top court directed that the Principal Secretary of the Legislative Assembly shall place before it on May 11 in a sealed cover all the documents including the result and video of the entire proceedings. . The apex court directed the Chief Secretary and DGP of Uttarakhand “to see that all qualified members participate and attend the proceedings safely and no hindrance is caused by anyone by anybody”.
The court refused to allow any outsider like a former chief election commissioner as suggested by Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi as an observer for the floor test.
While finalizing the modalities for holding the floor test, the bench made it clear that except for the said agenda of vote of confidence motion for Rawat, nothing else shall be discussed in the Assembly.
It also expressed confidence that the proceedings shall be absolutely peaceful and without any disturbance.
The bench said that all officials of Assembly shall follow in letter and spirit the procedure and any kind of deviation shall be viewed seriously.
It asked Additional Solicitor General Maninder Singh, appearing for Uttarakhand, to immediately convey the order of the court to the Chief Secretary and DGP.
In the order, the bench said the Assembly session shall convene at 11 AM for the single agenda and shall be over by 1 PM.
The bench said “the House shall divide and those in favor of motion will sit one way/ side and those against motion will on other way/ side”.
“The Principal Secretary, Legislative Assembly, (an official of rank of district judge) shall see that the voting is peaceful and recorded,” the bench said, adding “members voting in favor of motion shall singularly vote and raise hand one by one and that will be counted by Principal Secretary, Legislative Assembly”.
“Similar procedure shall be adopted while members voting against the motion,” it said.
The bench directed that “the entire proceedings shall be videographed so that it can be perused by this court if required”.
On the nine rebel Congress MLAs who were disqualified by the Speaker, the bench said “needless to say our observations in presente will not cause prejudice to the case of disqualification of MLAs which is presently subjudice before the Uttarakhand High Court”.
The bench made clear that it was a special arrangement for conducting the floor test and said “accordingly we direct that the judgment of the division bench of the high court quashing Presidential proclamation shall remain in abeyance from 11 AM to 1 PM”.
The bench also clarified that “the proclamation of emergency under Article 356 of the Constitution shall be in abeyance from 11 AM to 1 PM on May 10 and during that period the Governor shall be the incharge”.
It also said after 1 PM, the President rule will be revived and the matter will be taken by it on May 11 when the Principal Secretary, Legislative Assembly will come with all the documents including the results and video of the proceedings in a sealed cover. . At the outset, the Attorney General told the bench, “In line of your suggestion, we will go by it and there can be a floor test under your supervision.”
After taking note of the submission, the bench then discussed the modalities of holding the floor test and senior advocates Kapil Sabil, Abhishek Manu Singhvi and Rajeev Dhavan submitted that they have only one objection to the AG’s suggestion that there should be an observer like former Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) or ex-judges.
They said no outsider should be allowed as an observer as it will compromise with the autonomy of the Assembly which has to be respected.
Senior advocate C A Sundaram, appearing for the rebel Congress MLAs who have been disqualified by the Speaker, submitted that they should be allowed to vote on motion of confidence and their votes should be kept in a sealed cover.
However, the lawyers for Rawat raised objection saying “the nine rebel MLAs are ‘persona non grata’ and they cannot enter the Assembly.”
Singhvi submitted that the disqualified MLAs have no locus in the matter pertaining to Article 356 of the Constitution and they cannot short-circuit the entire judicial process.
The bench also said, “As on today, rightly or wrongly, you (rebel MLAs) are disqualified. The order disqualifying you was passed under the Constitution’s Tenth Schedule by the Speaker that is under judicial review.”
“They are not entitled to vote because of their disqualification and it will be like that so long as the disqualification lasts,” the bench said.
It further said that it was only dealing with the issue of floor test as the AG has conveyed that Centre has accepted the suggestion in this regard.
On May 4, the Centre had told the apex court that its suggestion to explore feasibility of holding a floor test in Uttarakhand Assembly under its supervision was under “serious consideration” and a “firm” decision will be taken on it.
The court was hearing Centre’s appeal against the Uttarakhand HC verdict revoking President’s rule in the state.
The apex court had on April 22 stayed till April 27 the judgment of the Uttarakhand High Court quashing imposition of President’s rule in the state.
On April 27, it had extended the stay till further orders and had also framed seven questions while giving the liberty to the AG to include other questions the government would like to be addressed.–PTI