Maharashtra crisis: Supreme Court refers to previous judgements on floor test

While ordering floor test for Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis, the Supreme Court Tuesday referred to its past decisions on Karnataka, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and Jharkhand where it had ordered similar exercise in times of political crisis.

The first decision it mentioned was upholding the disqualification of 17 Congress-JD(S) MLAs in Karnataka by the then Assembly Speaker, which was pronounced on November 13 by the 3-judge bench led by Justice N V Ramana.

Justice Ramana also headed the 3-judge bench in the Maharashtra matter and referred to the Karnataka judgment which had emphasised the requirement of imbibing constitutional morality by constitutional functionaries.

The apex court also mentioned its 2016 verdict in the case of Union of India vs Harish Chandra Singh Rawat in which it ordered the former chief minister of Uttarakhand to take a ‘vote of confidence’ on the floor of the Assembly.

Rawat had moved the apex court after the Modi government dismissed the then Congress government and imposed President’s rule after nine Congress MLAs sided with the 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 high court and the Supreme Court.

The High Court bench was then headed by Justice K M Joseph, who was then the Chief Justice and now the judge in the Supreme Court.

In its order, the top court had directed that “floor test be conducted on a special session of Uttarakhand Legislative Assembly to be summoned/ convened in which the only agenda would be the vote of confidence sought by the first respondent and apart from the said agenda nothing will be discussed”.

It had also issued directions to the chief secretary and the Director General of Police, Uttarakhand, to see that “all qualified Members of the Legislative Assembly, freely, safely and securely attend the Assembly and no hindrance is caused to them”.

The top court had also said that entire proceedings would be video graphed and the recording placed before it.

Holding that if the floor test is delayed, the top court said that there is a possibility of horse trading and it becomes incumbent upon the court to act to protect democratic values.

An immediate floor test, in such a case, might be the most effective mechanism to do so, it said.

It referred to its May 18, 2018 order in which it had directed that a floor test be held in the Karnataka Assembly at 4 pm to ascertain whether BJP chief minister B S Yeddyurappa enjoys majority in the state

The bench, also comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan and Sanjiv Khanna, pointed to the 9 -judge bench decision in S R Bommai case in 1994 in which it had said that “wherever a doubt arises whether the Council of Ministers has lost the confidence of the House, the only way of testing it is on the floor of the House…”

The 9 -judge bench had also held that imposition of President’s rule in states was unconstitutional as the governors did not give an opportunity for a floor test.

The apex court also referred to its 1999 order in the Jagdambika Pal vs Union of India in which it ordered composite floor test between contending parties in order to see which out of the two contesting claimants of chief ministership had a majority in the House.

The matter had come to the Supreme Court after UP Governor Romesh Bhandari sacked Kalyan Singh as chief minister and appointed Congress leader Jagdambika Pal as his successor.

Six years later, in Anil Kumar Jha vs Union of India (2005), the top court had issued similar directions after recording and taking notice of events that had taken place and few developments which were in the offing, as reported in the media.

The apex court had ordered a floor test in the Jharkhand assembly in March 2005 to decide whether Arjun Munda or Shibu Soren enjoyed a majority in the Assembly.

Ten years later, in Union of India vs Harish Chandra Singh Rawat, (2016) again an interim order was passed after the special leave petitions were taken up for hearing, though after concession which was made by Mr Mukul Rohatgi, the then Attorney General for India, that the Union of India has no objection, which the Court had appreciated.

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