A division bench of the court comprising Justice Iqbal Ahmed Ansari and Justice Samarendra Pratap Singh passed the order while hearing a petition filed by JDU MLC Neeraj Kumar, a Nitish Kumar loyalist.
On February 13, Neeraj filed a PIL in the high court to keep in abeyance all cabinet decisions taken by the Manjhi government after February 7, the day the JDU legislature party named Nitish as its leader.
The petitioner said in his PIL that since Manjhi had lost support of the JDU legislators, the decisions taken by him after February 7 should be stayed. Manjhi has since been expelled from the JDU and is at present an unattached member of the Assembly.
Neeraj said those decisions were “illegal” and would create administrative and financial chaos. Neeraj also said in his PIL that at present the chief minister was not a member of any political party in the House as he had been expelled from the primary membership of the JDU.
Hearing the petition, the high court directed Manjhi not to take any policy decision till it proves its majority in the House on February 20. However, the court remained silent on the petitioner’s plea on decisions taken by the Manjhi government since February 7. P.K. Shahi, the advocate for the petitioner, said the matter would be taken up in the next hearing on February 19.
Shahi, quoting the division bench, said: “The government has been restrained from taking any policy decisions, administrative or financial, in which financial implications are involved.”
Shahi said the court observed that as the Manjhi government had “lost support” in the House, so being a minority government it has lost moral authority and was therefore not entitled to take any policy decisions. It (government) would, however, carry out routine work, the court said.
Since February 7, the government has taken quite a few decisions, which have wider financial implications. Several of them are “politically inconvenient” for Nitish if he returns to power. The government had on February 10 provided reservation to contractors belonging to the SC and ST categories while the cabinet gave its nod to cover destitutes and widows up to 45 years of age under the targeted public distribution system.
On February 15, the government brought the Paswan caste under the umbrella of Mahadalits and also approved in principle the appointment of Vikas Mitras among the Scheduled Tribe families to speed up welfare of the STs in numerous programmes. The government also announced free electricity for small farmers owning up to five acres of land for agriculture purposes.
In his petition, Neeraj had requested the court to intervene and direct the principal secretary to the governor to ask Manjhi to seek a trust vote before February 20 when the budget session begins.
The argument forwarded by Neeraj was that since the Manjhi government is in a minority, it would not be proper for the governor to read his speech before it seeks a trust vote in House. Shahi said this issue, too, would be taken up on February 19.