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MP Political Crisis : When Will Speaker Decide On Resignations, Asks SC; Hearing On Plea For Floor Test To Continue Tomorrow

18 March 2020 11:03 AM GMT
MP Political Crisis : When Will Speaker Decide On Resignations, Asks SC; Hearing On Plea For Floor Test To Continue Tomorrow
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The Supreme Court will continue hearing tomorrow at 10.30 AM the petition seeking immediate floor test in the Madhya Pradesh assembly to prove the majority of Kamal Nath Government.

A bench comprising Justices D Y Chandrachud and Hemant Gupta on Wednesday held nearly a day long hearing of the petition filed by former three-time MP Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and other BJP leaders.

During the hearing, the Court asked why the Speaker was delaying decisions on the resignations submitted by the Congress MLAs. The bench also referred to the recent decision of the SC which held that the Speaker should ideally take a decision on disqualification within three months.

The Court asked the Speaker's counsel Senior Advocate Dr A M Singhvi when a decision on the resignations can be expected. Singhvi replied that he will inform by tomorrow.

Justice Chandrachud also orally expressed surprise at the adjournment of the budget session of the house on March 16.

"How will a state function when you don't even pass the budget?", he asked.

The bench also turned down the suggestion put forth by the petitioners that the Registrar General of Karnataka High Court could meet the 16 rebel MLAs camping in Bengaluru to ascertain if they are held captive.

Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi appeared for the petitioners and submitted the government has been reduced to a minority following the resignation of Congress MLAs. He added that the Governor has the discretionary power to direct a floor test in the Assembly to prove the government's majority.

Referring to the judgment of the SC in the SR Bommai case, Rohatgi submitted that a Chief Minister's refusal to test his strength on the floor of the assembly should be taken as a prima facie proof that he is not enjoying the confidence of the legislature.

Rohatgi also rebutted the allegations that the 'rebel' MLAs are held captive. They have given open statements to the media that they are camping in Bengaluru out of free will, he said.

Referring to various precedents, including the recent orders of the Supreme Court in the cases concerning assemblies of Karnataka and Maharashtra,  he sought directions for holding floor test immediately.

Earlier, Senior Advocate Dushyant Dave, made submissions in the petition filed by MP Congress seeking release of the MLAs allegedly held captive by BJP.

"Stable governance should become a part of the Basic Structure of the Constitution. Nobody should indulge in a way to topple governments. That is why a five-year tenure is provided", Dave said. 

He submitted that MLAs are bound by their oath of office and cannot therefore simply resign when lure of monetary benefits are made by the opposite party.

Senior Advocate Maninder Singh, appearing for the 'rebel' MLAs, asserted that they were not abducted. Singh submitted that their resignations were due to "ideological reasons". Speaker cannot indefinitely defer a decision on the resignation letters, Singh added.

Senior Advocate Dr Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for the MP Speaker, submitted that the resignations were a ploy to escape the effects of defection. He submitted that the resignation letters were almost identical with just two lines, and most of them were written by the same person. 

Singhvi also submitted that the Governor has no discretion to order floor test in a "running Assembly".

The Court also heard Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal for Chief Minister Kamal Nath and Solicitor General Tushar Mehta for MP Governor.

Petition background

The plea was moved in the wake of recent migration of former Congress MLA Jyotiraditya Scindia to BJP last week.

On Monday, the Madhya Pradesh Speaker adjourned the assembly meeting till March 26 citing Corona scare, without holding floor test. The Madhya Pradesh Congress has also filed a writ petition in the SC seeking access to 16 'rebel MLAs' who are allegedly held captive by the BJP.

In the house having 230 seats, the Congress has 114 seats and BJP has 107 seats. Government was formed by Congress after the elections in December 2018 with the support of 7 other MLAs. The petitioners claim that 22 Congress MLAs have tendered their resignations to the Speaker on March 10, "on account of dissatisfaction with the Hon'ble Chief Minister for non-fulfilment of promises made prior to elections".

It is also stated that BJP submitted a letter to the Governor on March 14 seeking urgent floor on the ground that the government has been reduced to a minority. Though the Governor had agreed to order floor test on March 16, the business of the house was adjourned on Monday till March 26, without holding the same..

"It is submitted that on account of lack of confidence and resignation of 22 MLAs of Congress party, out of which the resignation of 6 MLAs having been already accepted by Hon'ble Speaker, the government led by Hon'ble Chief Minister has been reduced to minority. It has no moral, legal, democratic or constitutional right to remain in power even for a single day. All possible attempts are being made by the Hon'ble Chief Minister to convert his minority government into majority by giving all possible threats, allurements to the members of the Madhya Pradesh Vidhan Sabha. The horse-trading is at its peak", the plea stated.

Citing the decision of 9 judge constitution bench in S.R. Bommai v. Union of India, (1994) 3 SCC 1,it is argued that if the support to a government is withdrawn by some legislators and the government appears to have lost the confidence of the house, it is the duty of the Governor to direct the government to prove the majority by floor test.

It is pleaded that "any deferment of the floor test will further encourage horse trading and would be in utter violation of the directions issued by the Hon'ble Governor; law laid down by the Supreme Court and the spirit and basic structure of the constitution of India".

The petitioners asserted that the refusal of the Chief Minister to conduct floor test is clear manifestation of the loss of majority in the house.

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