In a stunning verdict, the imposition of President’s rule in Uttarakhand was today quashed by the state High Court which restored the dismissed Congress government and castigated the Centre for uprooting a democratically-elected government. Coming down heavily on the Centre for the March 27 proclamation under Art 356, a division bench consisting of Chief Justice K M Joseph and Justice V K Bist said the imposition of President’s rule was contrary to the law laid down by the Supreme Court.
Directing revival of the Harish Rawat government, which was dismissed by the Centre on Mar 27, the court ordered that he should seek a vote of confidence in the Assembly on April 29.
Crucially it also upheld the disqualification of nine rebel Congress MLAs saying that they have to pay the price of committing the “Constitutional sin” of defection by being disqualified by the Speaker.
“The soul of the matter is whether it is open to the Central government to get rid of state governments, supplant or uproot the democratically- elected government, introduce chaos, undermine confidence of the little man who stands with a white paper to cast his vote braving the snow, heat and rain.
“We are of the view that be it suspension or dissolution, the effect is toppling of a democratically-elected government. It breeds cynicism in the hearts of citizens who participate in the democratic system and also undermines democracy and foundation of federalism,” the bench said.
In a lengthy judgement dictated in the open court for nearly 150 minutes, the bench said, what was at stake here was democracy at large. It observed that the issue must be seen here on a larger canvas as India is a Union of States with the Centre and States both soverign in their respective spheres. “One this is clear then 356 has to be used as a last resort with greatest care,” the bench said.
The Court sought an assurance from the Central government’s counsel that the President’s rule would not be revoked for a week and someone else to form a government till its verdict was delivered.
When the Centre’s counsel said that he was not in a position to give such an assurance, the bench observed, “Otherwise you can do this in every state. Impose President’s Rule for 10-15 days and then ask someone else to take oath.
“More than angry, we are pained that you are behaving like this. That the highest authority—Government of India— behaves like this. How can you think of playing with the court.”