Modi government faces embarrassment in Supreme Court as judges ask uncomfortable questions on declaring emergency in Uttarakhand

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The Narendra Modi government on Wednesday was left red faced in the Supreme Court after its decision to impose President’s Rule in Uttarakhand cane under sharp scrutiny by the bench of Jutice Dipak Misra and Justice Shiva Kirti Singh.

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Though the apex court postponed the matter for 3 May allowing the President’s Rule to continue in the hill state, it posed some damning questions before the Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi.

Supreme Court questions Governor’s authority

The Bench, as reported by The Hindu, questioned Governor K.K. Paul’s authority to seek video and audio recording of the 18 March assembly proceedings on the passing of the Money Bill.

It asked the centre, “Is it within the Governor’s jurisdiction to ask for division of votes on the Money Bill and for video and audio of the Assembly proceedings? The Speaker is the master of the House and is it not his prerogative to decide whether there should be video or audio recording of the proceedings of the House?”

The Bench questions on Money Bill

The Supreme Court asked how the Union Cabinet sitting in New Delhi could determine that a Money Bill was not validly passed in the Uttarakhand State assembly and use it as a pretext to impose President’s rule in the state.

“The million dollar question is when the Assembly Speaker said the Money Bill was passed on March 18, how did you say it was not?” Justice Dipak Misra asked the Centre.

Rohatgi said that the non-passage of the Money Bill would have seen the state slip into chaos and the President could not have let that happen.

“But the Assembly records show that Money Bill was passed on March 18. If so, who is the authority to question the Speaker? Nobody can question him,” Justice Shiva Kirti Singh observed.

Rohatgi submitted that the Speaker had refused a division of votes on the Money Bill despite a request from the “majority” 35 MLAs (26 BJP MLAs and nine Congress rebels) in the House on March 18. This had proved that the Rawat government was already a “minority” from that day. Mr. Rohatgi said that as far as the Centre was concerned the real floor test happened on March 18 itself and there was no need for a further no-confidence motion.

“Whether 28 or 35 MLAs is a matter inside the House. If the government was in minority as you claim, what follows is a floor test,” Justice Misra observed.

Abhishek Manu Singhvi, representing the deposed Chief Minister Harish Rawat, said that it was the first time in India that a proclamation of emergency had hit a “double whammy”.

“The emergency clouded the authority of the Speaker as well as prevented the holding of the floor test on March 28… the proclamation came hardly 36 hours before the floor test was to be held,” Mr, Singhvi submitted.

Supreme Court questions use of sting operation for President’s Rule?’

The Bench asked whether a sting operation purportedly showing Rawat indulging in horse-trading could actually be a ground for emergency in the state.

Rohatgi replied that if the President was expected to keep mum when a State Chief Minister was shown on TV openly horse-trading.

“A sting operation can be socially, idealistically and morally condemned. But can you take that as a factor for imposing President’s rule? Both horsetrading and airing of sting operation create a dent in democracy. That is why we said that a floor test is the ultimate test… don’t get into these sting operations,” Justice Misra told the Centre.

Uttarakhand High Court judgment om 21 April found the declaration of President’s rule in the State on 27 March as unconstitutional

The Bench said that it will deliver a verdict before the Supreme Court is closed for summer vacation on 13 May.

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