#Uttarakhand: Rohatgi, Singhvi and Sibal battle it out in Supreme Court

The judgment of Uttarakhand High Court quashing the Presidential rule in the State will remain in “abeyance” till May 3. The Supreme Court today extended its interim order to that effect; in other words, the floor test scheduled for April 29 will not happen.

The case was heard from 2 pm to 3.45 pm today by a Bench of Justices Dipak Misra and Shiva Kirti Singh.

Arguments

Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi – Money Bill not passing tantamounts to government falling

One of Rohatgi’s main submissions was that the Appropriation Bill was not passed in the assembly on March 18 and consequently, the House stood dissolved. He submitted that 27 BJP MLAs and 9 Congress MLAs asked for a Division vote over the Bill. The Speaker turned this down illegally and recorded that the Bill is passed.

“Those 27 + 9 stood up and asked for a voting. Speaker did not allow that. He records that the Bill is passed either by voice vote or something else. Can the Speaker say no voting is the majority says that they want voting. It is then that the 35 went to the Governor’s house.

The Speaker says only 27 demanded for a vote. But it is our case that 27 + 9 demanded division. Money bill not passing tantamounts to government falling.”

Rohatgi also stuck to his earlier stand that the sufficiency and veracity of materials based on which the President has imposed 356 rule cannot be subject to judicial review.

“The only questions is whether there was relevant material before the President to exercise 356 jurisdiction. The sufficiency or veracity of the material cannot be subject to judicial review. It is clear as daylight that the government was in minority.”

Another contention raised by Rohatgi was that though the Congress party claimed that Appropriation Bill was passed on March 18, the same was sent to the Governor only on March 28. Therefore, the President was only justified in imposing 356 rule.

Abhishek Manu Singhvi and Kapil Sibal

One of Singhvi’s main submissions was that the division was not asked by 35 MLAs as claimed but only by 27 BJP MLAs. Subsequently, after the Appropriation Bill was passed, the 35 gave MLAs gave a written memorandum to the Governor regarding the same.

“They say they opposed the Bill. From 10.30 am to 7.30 pm, nothing is given in writing. When voting takes place, majority don’t seek division. After the Bill is passed, they try to cover up their lacuna and go with a memorandum to the Governor at 11.30 pm.”

He further submitted that even if it is assumed that the Bill was not passed, that would not amount to a no-confidence in the government. It would only be a trigger for no-confidence motion.

“Article 356 is emergency provision used in rarest of rare cases. Both Bommai and Rameshwar Prasad have clearly laid down all principles. 356 is one of the well traversed terrain. Floor test is the only panacea  [as per Supreme Court judgments].”

He also submitted that horse trading was first done by BJP when they lured 9 MLAs of Congress.

“Horse trading first occurred when BJP got 9 of our MLAs. Is that not horse trading. Why no President’s rule then? This selective morality will not work.”

Singhvi also said that even if all the allegations raised by the Centre are true, it would still not validate imposition of President’s rule.

“Speaker had scheduled a floor test on March 28. Governor and Chief Minister had agreed to it. What happened in those 8 days that they had to impose President’s rule before March 28.

Assuming there was horse trading, assuming the sting is correct, floor test is the only panacea.  If at all there was an illegality by the Speaker, it would have been remedied by floor test on March 28.”

Singhvi also submitted that the fact there was a delay in the Bill reaching the Governor is not a ground for imposition of President’s rule.

“Between March 18 and March 28, there were only 2 working days. 19 Bills were sent together to the Governor”, he submitted.

Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal argued that a Cabinet in New Delhi cannot determine whether a Bill in Uttarakhand has been passed or not.

“How is the Cabinet in New Delhi to determine that and impose President’s rule.” he asked.

Extension on abeyance

The Court after hearing the three lawyers, directed that the order keeping the Uttarakhand High Court judgment in abeyance be continued. The Court has given the Centre liberty to amend its petition. The respondents can file their replies to the same by May 2. The case will now be taken up on May 3 at 2 pm.