New Delhi, April 27: President's Rule will continue in Uttarakhand, the Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday drawing curtains on the floor test of the ousted Congress government that was to be held on Friday as ordered by the state high court.
The apex court said the hearing would resume from May 3 on the central government's plea challenging the Uttarakhand High Court order that revoked President's Rule in the hill state. The apex court extended its April 22 interim ruling that put on hold the high court order.
The Supreme Court, however, made it clear that whichever way it may decide, ultimately the issue would be decided by the floor test in the 70-member Uttarakhand assembly.
In a hypothetical proposition, the the apex court bench of Justice Dipak Misra and Justice Shiva Kirti Singh asked Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi if President's Rule could be kept in abeyance for two to three days and the strength of a government tested on the floor of the assembly.
"This matter has its own gravity. Even if we sustain the President's Rule, there has to be a floor test," the bench told the government.
Unwilling to walk the course suggested by the court, Rohatgi said it would not be possible that today you have President's Rule, then put it in abeyance for the floor test, and then bring it back.
Rohatgi asked the bench to hear the matter and decide and let the things take their own course.
The attorney general told the court that if it decided against President's Rule, it would be for the state governor to order a floor test.
At the outset, the court framed seven questions on the role of constitutional authorities like governor, speaker, and the President (or the union cabinet).
Rohatgi assailed the high court judgment that had asked the Harish Rawat-led Congress government to prove his legislative majority on April 29.
Uttarakhand was plunged into political uncertainty after nine Congress legislators, including former chief minister Vijay Bahuguna, whom Rawat replaced, revolted and turned to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
The crisis peaked on March 18 when the assembly passed the budget Appropriation Bill by voice vote even as the opposition, including the rebel Congress members, sought recorded voting. Speaker Govind Kunjwal declined the request, leading the BJP to cry foul.
Rawat was then asked by Governor K.K. Paul to prove his majority on March 28. Just a day before, the central government ousted the Rawat-led government by imposing President's Rule. Rawat immediately went to court.
The attorney general mentioned how all this should be seen with a March 25 sting operation where ousted Rawat was seen allegedly mentioning money and the floor-crossing by some legislators.
Senior counsel Abhishek Singhvi, appearing for Rawat, contested this and said a sting operation cannot be a basis for imposing President's Rule.
Giving the schedule of the hearing, the bench said that Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi would commence his arguments on Tuesday and conclude on Wednesday by lunch.
Thereafter, senior counsel Abhishek Singhvi and Kapil Sibal, appearing for the ousted chief minister Harish Rawat, would conclude their arguments by Thursday.