Uttarakhand judicial order defied imposition of President’s Rule

Uttarakhand's judicial order precipitates a constitutional crisis in state

For now a constitutional crisis in Uttarakhand has been averted as the Uttarakhand High Court has cancelled a trust vote of the Congress Chief Minister Harish Rawat that a judge yesterday had ordered for 31st March.

Following a rebellion in the Congress legislative party, with 9 legislators withdrawing support to the Rawat led government, the center by evoking article 356 had placed the state under President’s Rule, something that was challenged by chief minister before the court.

The court by asking for a floor test had trashed the President Rule order, precipitating a constitutional crisis

The court before cancelling the trust vote order today has asked the central government to explain by Monday what was the hurry to impose President’s Rule in the state when the Governor had declared a date for holding a floor test in the assembly.

For Harish Rawat - a floor test against President's Rule
For Harish Rawat – a floor test against President’s Rule

The unfolding political drama in Uttarakhand:

  • The High Court questioned “the hurry to impose President’s Rule when the governor had set a date for the floor test.”
  • “Floor test is the best test and the correct arena,” said the court, as it heard the Centre’s petition against any test of strength on grounds that the state was under central rule and “there is no government.”
  • The government argued that a trust vote would mean an assembly sitting and “two governments, one that has had the sitting and one that is there under central rule.”
  • Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi said: The assembly building is empty, there is no government, there is no MLA (lawmaker) once 356 (President’s Rule) is in place.”
  • The court ruling that there must be a trust vote was seen as embarrassing for the Centre, which had ordered President’s Rule on the weekend.
  • Till last week, Harish Rawat of the Congress was Chief Minister, confronting dissidence within his party. Earlier this month, nine Congress rebel lawmakers voted against him on the state’s budget.
  • The Centre said this proved that his government had been reduced to a minority. Mr Rawat and his party refuted that allegation, and were told by Governor KK Paul to take a trust vote on Monday, March 28.
  • However, before that could happen, President Pranab Mukherjee sanctioned the Cabinet’s recommendation for Uttarakhand to be governed by the Centre.
  • Adding to Mr Rawat’s challenges is a video aired by a local news channel which claimed that he could be seen and heard offering bribes to lure back the nine rebels.
  • Uttarakhand is one of eight states governed by the Congress (among those are Kerala and Assam where elections have been called). Earlier this year, its government in Arunanchal Pradesh collapsed, again, after a mutiny within its legislators.
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