The Supreme Court on Tuesday cleared the decks for oath taking of Manohar Parrikar as the chief minister of Goa by refusing the plea of Congress to stay the ceremony, saying the BJP has shown the support of 21 out of the 40 newly elected MLAs.
The apex court at the same time directed conducting of the floor test on Thursday. Parrikar was sworn in on Tuesday evening.
It also directed going ahead with all "pre-requisites of holding the floor test by tomorrow, including the formalities required by the Election Commission" and putting in place the senior most member in the assembly as the protem speaker.
The top court said it was "satisfied" that all the sensitive and contentious issues raised in the petition by Goa Congress Legislative Party (CLP) leader Chandrakant Kavlekar "can be resolved by a simple direction of holding a floor test".
A bench headed by Chief Justice J S Khehar, which held a special sitting as the apex court was on a Holi vacation, requested Goa Governor Mridula Sinha to summon the House for the floor test for which the session will commence at 11am on March 16 and no other business other than holding the floor test will be conducted after the swearing-in of the members which will be completed as soon as possible.
The bench, also comprising Justices Ranjan Gogoi and R K Agrawal, refused to interfere with the decision of the Governor and took on record her letter to Parrikar which took into account that the BJP along with its 13 elected members have the support of members of the regional parties -- Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party and Goa Forward Party -- and the independents taking the tally to 21 to attain the magic figure in the 40-member House.
Besides BJP's 13 MLAs, three each from MGP and GFP and two independent members have pledged support for government formation under Parrikar.
While ordering floor test, the bench noted the submissions of Goa CLP leader's counsel and senior advocate Abhishek Mani Singhvi who assailed the Governor's determination to invite Parrikar to form the government by "seriously disputing" the factual position and terming it as a "misrepresentation of fact".
During the hearing, the bench found fault with Congress for not raising the issue of number of MLAs supporting it before the Governor and also rushing to the apex court without the affidavits of the elected members of the regional parties and independents that they are supporting the Congress which emerged as the single largest party in the 40-member House.
The apex court was also furious that the Congress has not impleaded Parrikar as a party in the petition despite knowing what was happening for the last two days.
The apex court questioned the submission of Singhvi demanding holding of the composite floor test, which is conducted when two parties claim majority, and also deferring of the oath-taking ceremony of Parrikar that was also opposed by senior advocate Harish Salve and Additional Solicitor General Maninder Singh.
While Salve said the plea was like seeking stay on the governor's decision, the bench said the Congress was "fussy about everything".
"You (Congress) have not impleaded the chief minister in the petition. You are only saying one thing or the other. We will only issue notice. You are fussy about everything. You are asking for commas, full stop etc. We will issue notice for next month.
"You have cited all irrelevant judgements in the petition. You want floor test before oath taking and swearing-in. You don't have even impleaded the CM. You don't even have the affidavits of the members supporting you. So sensitive is the matter that you don't do anything. You want an order at his (Parrikar) back.
"You don't have pleading with regard to the number. You have not impleaded CM as a necessary party. You know his name. He has been the defence minister of the country," the bench made the scathing remarks during the hearing.
At the outset, Singhvi submitted that the governor did not have the courtesy of asking the single largest party to form the government and despite a letter was written by the party, contrary to the press reports, about the numbers with the BJP.
He submitted that the governor by not inviting or giving a telephonic call to the single largest party, has subverted the constitutional convention and democracy.
However, the submission did not go well with the bench, which said, "Everybody knew what was happening. Who was with whom and you do not say a word. Governor would have been in a position to answer if you have gone. Even before this court, you should be having affidavits that these people are with you."
"If the largest political party by its own strength form government, there would be no issue left and it would finish the matter. If you don't have, it is the bounden duty of the governor to determine who can form the government.
"In that situation, if nothing happens it is the bounden duty of the Governor to call single largest party. If someone go and tells that I have the numbers, the governor will act. You don't say anything. At no point of time, it is demonstrated that the numbers demonstrated by other side is factually incorrect. The constitutional convention of inviting single largest party is subject to the numbers," the bench said.
When Singhvi asked how can the governor at this stage go by the concept of most stable government, the bench said, "It is not a question of stable government but it is anyone who has the numbers will only be stable. You could have demonstrated this and it would not have taken more than 30 seconds."
"By saying that some people are with me, you have not said you are disputing something which is publicly portrayed for two days. You disputed all this as nonsense. There is specific fact but you are not denying it specifically," the bench said, adding, "You are saying the same thing in a different language. You should have said I have the numbers. As a layman, I would have taken 21 men with me. This is the most simple thing to have been done."
When the Congress submitted that the easiest way now to determine who has the majority is to have a floor test in Goa, the bench said, "You are putting us in the position of governor."
"You did not tell anything to governor and telling it to us. If you are dissatisfied, you should have run to the governor and said all these are nonsense. You should have said all these people and independents supporting other party is wrong. You should have said we have the affidavit of their support," it said.
The bench also said, "Where is the difficulty for you to get the affidavits. You filed the petition last evening and you had the whole night with you. You could have brought them here."
Salve, who did not have to make much effort, said "There is no dispute on holding a floor test and the governor has already given 15 days for it."
However, the bench said "floor test has to be forthwith".
"Once the House is constituted, there will be floor test forthwith. The senior most MLA will be the protem speaker. You (Congress) will be desirous of 21 MLAs with you," it said.
When Singhvi said that there should be a composite floor test as two rivals are claiming majority and that does not require a government, the bench shot back "You don't implead him (Parrikar) and points finger at everyone".