U'khand High Court makes history

Mr Rawat has been directed to test his majority on the floor of the state Assembly on April 29.

History has been made with the Uttarakhand High Court on Wednesday quashing the proclamation of President’s Rule under Article 356 of the Constitution made on March 27 this year in respect of the state, restoring the government of chief minister Harish Rawat, and tendering salutary constitutional counsel to the highest in the land. The division bench of Chief Justice K.M. Joseph and V.K. Bisht pulled no punches and made it quite clear that the President of India had gone “terribly wrong” in sanctioning Central rule when the material before him to do so was thin. It was “found wanting” in the words of the court, meaning sufficient grounds for the proclamation did not exist.

Mr Rawat has been directed to test his majority on the floor of the state Assembly on April 29. In political terms this may not prove relatively difficult as the HC sustained the direction of the Speaker to disqualify the nine Congress MLAs, who apparently defied their party whip and voted against the government on the Appropriation Bill, for “defection”.

“Be you ever so high, the law is above you” is a dictum people in exalted positions will do well to remember, and this appears to have particular resonance in this case. Law is the recourse ordinary people have in confronting those wielding power, otherwise they will be helpless before authority even in a democracy. In the Uttarakhand case, a duly elected government had been sought to be pulled down by Central authority in a manner that just didn’t seem right.

If the Union government recommends Central Rule for a state, the President eventually has no choice but to go along, but before appending his signature the first citizen is entitled to ask questions, offer appropriate counsel, and receive clarification. Apparently this was not done in the Uttarakhand case, although it was plain that the Centre was blatantly in disregard of the state governor’s direction to chief minister Rawat to take a floor test on March 28, and pushed through its notification for dismissal of his government just a day prior.

For the High Court, this amounted to “cutting at the root of democracy” and the “government introducing chaos”. The division bench reminded the Centre that the imposition of President’s Rule in Uttarakhand “was contrary to the law laid down by the Supreme Court”. It also underlined that bringing a state under Central Rule ought to be an exception. The Modi government is going in appeal to the Supreme Court. After the pusillanimity shown in the case of the imposition of President’s Rule in Arunachal Pradesh in February, it is to be hoped that the top court will not interfere with the governor’s direction for a floor test, which has been upheld by the high court.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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