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Rawat has won, President's rule will be revoked in Uttarakhand: Centre to SC

Source: PTI
Last updated on: May 11, 2016 23:54 IST
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In a major embarrassment for the Narendra Modi government, the Centre had to revoke President’s Rule in Uttarakhand after Congress leader Harish Rawat won the floor test.

Harish Rawat was on Wednesday restored as Chief Minister of Uttarakhand, 46 days after he was ousted by the Centre in a political battle that ended in a setback to Narendra Modi government as the Supreme Court on Wednesday put its stamp of approval on the floor test in the assembly.

"We have opened the result of the vote presented to us in a sealed cover by Jaidev Singh, Principal Secretary (Legislative and Parliamentary Affairs) and we find that 33 votes out of 61 were cast in favour of Rawat," an apex court bench said seeking revocation of President's rule forthwith so that 68-year-old Rawat can take over as Chief Minister.

Celebrations broke out in Dehradun with Congress workers bursting firecrackers, singing and dancing and distributing sweets the moment the news trickled in from the court that Rawat has won the trial of strength in the assembly on Tuesday which was carried out on the instructions of the Supreme Court.

Amidst celebrations, a happy and smiling Rawat was restrained in his comments by saying the judiciary has restored the faith of people in democracy and pledged to start afresh forgetting the "bad patch" to take state forward.

The denouement in the political saga that took various twists and turns and a number of court battles has come as a major loss of face for Modi government at the Centre which had dismissed the Congress government and imposed President's rule after nine Congress MLAs sided with BJP on the Appropriation Bill.

The rebel MLAs were subsequently disqualified by the Speaker under the anti-defection law, a decision that was upheld by the Uttarakhand High Court and not interfered with by the Supreme Court.

Shortly after the court's directions, the Union Cabinet met in Parliament House and recommended to the President lifting of the President's rule to enable restoration of the Rawat government.

Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi met the President and explained to him the Cabinet's recommendation against the backdrop of the court hearing before he approved the recommendation and a notification ending Central rule was issued at night.

Congress and other opposition parties attacked the Centre for dismissing Rawat government but BJP fended off saying Congress has "bought" majority in Uttarakhand but "lost people's majority".

"The Prime Minister should apologise in Parliament and sack the Minister who advised him to impose President's rule or the Minister should himself quit", Congress spokesman and senior advocate Kapil Sibal told reporters.

At the outset in the court hearing, Rohatgi conceded that there is no doubt that Harish Rawat has proved his majority.

"It is clear from news and other reports that orderly voting did take place and Rawat has proved his majority. I have taken instructions from the government and the instruction from the very highest authority is that we will revoke the President's rule.

"I also have instructions that this can only be done with the leave of this court. We will revoke the President's rule from today. I have also advised the government to revoke the President's rule," the AG said.

Senior advocate Sibal, who appeared for Rawat and the Uttarakhand Speaker, said "our appreciation is for the fair stand taken by the AG."

The AG said that "his (Rawat's) government has to berestored forthwith."

The bench said Harish Rawat will assume office as CM after President's rule is revoked. "We allow the Centre to revoke forthwith the order of proclamation of President's rule in the state," it said.

The bench asked the Centre to file before it day after Friday its order revoking the President's rule in Uttarakhand.

It, however, held that the justifiability of the proclamation of President's rule made on March 27, which has been assailed by the high court, will remain alive as it is under challenge before the apex court.

It also noted that the nine disqualified MLAs have challenged the HC order and the matter is of debate. "We do not say anything on that," the bench said.

An ecstatic Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi said that democracy has won and hoped that the Prime Minister will "learn the lesson".

"They (BJP) did their worst. We did our best. Democracy won in Uttarakhand.

"Hope the PM learns the lesson that people of India and institutions built by our founding fathers will not tolerate murder of democracy," Rahul said on Twitter.

The bench said the justifiability of the President's rule has to be gone into and observed "suppose we set aside the disqualification of the nine MLAs, there will be another floor test."

The bench noted in its order that the proceedings of the floor test were appropriately observed by the Principal Secretary (Legislature and Parliamentary Affairs), Uttarakhand, along with secretary (legislative assembly).

The bench also recorded the statement of the AG and Additional Solicitors General Tushar Mehta and Maninder Singh that there has been no irregularity in carrying out the voting.

"We also clarify that nine members of the legislative assembly did not vote as they stand disqualified," it said.

The bench also recorded the statement of Jaidev Singh that there was no irregularity in the voting.

"We accept the same. We hasten to add the same is accepted by the Attorney General," the bench said.

At this juncture, the AG submitted that the order of April 22, 2016 putting in operation the President's rule, after the high court had quashed it, has to be modified so that Union of India can take steps for revocation of the President's rule.

"Keeping in view the prayer of the AG, we vary the order by granting liberty to Union of India to revoke proclamation of President's rule in course of the day.

"After it is revoked, the order of revocation of proclamation of President's rule will be produced so that an appropriate order can be passed," the bench said.

"Needless to say, after the revocation of the President's rule, Rawat can assume the office of Chief Minister of Uttarakhand," the bench said.

The bench said there are two other aspects which needed clarification.

"First, justifiability of proclamation of President's rule made on March 27 which has been annulled by the HC, will remain alive for the high court has ascribed many a reason to arrive at the conclusion that the said proclamation was not tenable in law," it said.

The bench said it has to be scrutinised in judicial review whether the opinion arrived at for proclamation of President's rule was justified or not.

The second aspect is that of 9 MLAs who were disqualified by the Speaker and their disqualification was upheld by the HC and has been assailed in the Special Leave Petition and "this court refused to grant interim order of stay on the relevant SLP by May 9 order and the matter has been adjourned for July 12.

"What will be the effect of the disqualification is a matter of debate. We do not say anything on that," the bench said and posted the matter for Friday.

On Friday, it will peruse the order of revocation of proclamation of President's rule in Uttarakhand while also fixing the next date for hearing the appeal filed by Centre against the HC order quashing imposition of President's rule under Article 356 of the Constitution. 

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