Nainital: A division bench of the Nainital High Court today stayed the scheduled floor test for the government’s vote of confidence on March 31 till the proceedings in the case were on.
The decision comes on an appeal by the Centre challenging a single bench decision of the same court directing a floor test in the state Assembly to determine which party enjoys a majority.
Staying the order of the single judge U C Dhyani, the two-judge bench headed by Chief Justice K M Joseph posted the matter for April 6 for final hearing on the writ petition filed by ousted Chief Minister Harish Rawat challenging the imposition of President's Rule in the state.
"In view of the consent of the parties that the writ petition be posted to 06-04-2016 for being disposed of finally, we direct that the order, which is impugned in these appeals will be kept in abeyance till 07-04-2016," said the bench, also comprising Justice V K Bist.
The Centre had challenged the court's earlier order on grounds that Uttarakhand is placed under central rule and has "no government or an empty assembly building."
"What was the need to pass this judgment? Why could they not wait two days? Voting in assembly is suspended so how is the learned judge calling the house to sit? There can't be a house, cannot be a sitting," Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, arguing for the central government, said.
"The assembly building is empty, there is no government, there is no MLA (lawmaker) once 356 (President's Rule) is in place," the Attorney General said.
The Bench noted that the AG and senior advocate Abishek Manu Singhvi, who appeared for Rawat, agreed that the writ petition which has given rise to these appeals may be "withdrawn to this Bench" and be finally disposed of.
The AG said the Centre's counter affidavit, along with that of Centrally-ruled Uttarakhand, would be filed by April 4. The court gave 24 hours to petitioner Rawat to file a rejoinder affidavit to counter affidavits.
The court, in its earlier order, also allowed the nine suspended rebel MLAs to take part in the floor test. Uttarakhand went under President's Rule which was imposed on Sunday.
The court has posted the matter for hearing on April 6. As a result, status quo will be maintained in the state and President’s rule will continue at least till the next date of hearing.
Uttarakhand sunk into a crisis after nine rebel MLAs of the Congress party sided with the BJP during a controversial vote on the Finance Bill in the state Assembly. The Finance Bill of the state was passed amid chaos after the Speaker Govind Singh Kunjwal refused a vote in the house and passed it hurriedly amid din.
The past few days have seen high drama in the state with rebel Congress leaders from the state releasing a purported sting video that allegedly shows chief minister Harish Rawat offering Rs 5 crore and ministerial berths to the defecting MLAs to woo them back into his fold.
The Speaker had disqualified nine Congress MLAs under the anti-defection law hours after imposition of President's rule in the state on March 27, a day before the state government was earlier scheduled to go for a floor test in the Assembly.
The Congress too has challenged the High Court’s order allowing participation of nine disqualified MLAs in the floor test. In its plea filed in the court, the party has claimed that the ‘constitutional sin of defection cannot be condoned by permitting the said 9 persons to vote, when in fact the seats those persons represented as MLAs has itself fallen vacant’.
(With PTI inputs)