The Union government on Tuesday sought a direction from the Supreme Court to the Election Commission to hold elections in Gujarat within six months of the dissolution of the state assembly.
Solicitor General Harish Salve argued that there could not be a gap of more than six months between two sittings of a legislature.
The Gujarat assembly was dissolved on July 19, but the Election Commission expressed its inability to hold elections in the riot-torn state within the stipulated six months and recommended imposition of President's rule.
The Union government, however, did not agree with the Election Commission's view and moved the Supreme Court through a presidential reference.
Tuesday was the first day of hearings on the presidential reference.
Salve said while the Election Commission's power to hold free and fair polls was unquestionable, it could not make recommendations for the imposition of President's rule in a state.
Election Commission counsel K K Venugopal said the commission's August 16 order deferring the polls in Gujarat was not taken with reference to Article 356, which provides for imposition of President's rule. "The decision contained in Election Commission's order was taken without reference to Article 356. However, it was merely pointed out that there need be no apprehension that there would be a constitutional impasse [if the elections were not held with the stipulated six months] as Article 356 could provide a solution in such a situation," he said.
When the court asked what would be the situation if the gap between two sittings of the assembly stretched beyond six months, the solicitor general said a council of ministers could, in such a situation, continue in office for six months from the date of dissolution as per Article 164.
A five-judge Constitution bench -- comprising Chief Justice B N Kirpal, Justice V N Khare, Justice K G Balakrishnan, Justice Ashok Bhan and Justice Arijit Pasayat -- said it would like to finish hearing all sides by September 26.
The Gujarat Elections: The complete coverage
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