22 April, New Delhi
The nearly month-long political flux in Uttarakhand continued on Friday as the Supreme Court stayed till April 27 the judgement of the state high court quashing imposition of President’s rule in the hill state, in a major reprieve for the Narendra Modi government.
The apex court order had a dampening effect on the Congress camp, which was in jubilant mood after Thursday’s order by the state high court, and the mood was predictably sombre in Dehradun.
However, ousted chief minister Harish Rawat maintained: “No one in our camp is unhappy”.
On Thursday, the Uttarakhand High Court dealt a major blow to the Modi government when it set aside President’s Rule in the state, imposed on March 27, restoring Congress leader Harish Rawat as chief minister.
Reacting to the stay order on Friday, Congress spokesman Ajoy Kumar merely said that the Supreme Court has only put on hold the matter till April 27.
“The Supreme Court did not have the copy of the high court judgement. It’s put on hold. We will present our case before the apex court as we did in the Uttarakhand High Court,” Kumar told IANS.
Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, appearing on behalf of the central government, said the apex court’s stay order would “revive” the central rule in the state.
The two-member bench of the apex court also hinted that the matter may be referred to a larger constitution bench, implying a long legal process on the cards.
Posting the matter for hearing on April 27, the bench comprising Justices Dipak Misra and Shiva Kirti Singh, said: “It is directed that the judgment of the high court shall remain in abeyance till 27th April, 2016.”
It also took an undertaking from Attorney General Rohatgi that “the Centre shall not revoke the Presidential Proclamation till the next date of hearing”.
The interim order from the apex court implies that President’s or Governor’s rule “revives” and the chief minister will have no power or jurisdiction to work any further till further orders, Rohatgi, who also had come under attack from BJP leader Subramanian Swamy for his flip-flop in the high court on Thursday, told reporters outside the court premises.
In Dehradun, Rawat, who chaired two cabinet meetings since Thursday night, seemed to be reconciled to the apex court ruling, and said he would respect the court orders which would also stall attempts to form a government “through the back door”.
“This decision (of the Supreme Court) will control the attempts to get a majority through back door and form a government that has no moral right to be there,” Rawat said in reference to the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party.
The BJP leaders, both in Delhi and Dehradun, criticised Rawat for chairing cabinet meetings without the governor’s orders.
“By taking charge suo motu as chief minister, Rawat has created a constitutional crisis,” state BJP spokesman Munna Singh Chauhan told reporters in Dehradun.
Official sources said the cabinet cleared at least 11 proposals pending before the government.
These included re-appointment of over 6,000 guest teachers on a monthly stipend of Rs.15,000. The state cabinet had also recommended an assembly session to be convened on April 29.
Meanwhile, the nine rebel Congress MLAs, who had moved the apex court against their disqualification by the speaker, sought to address the court on their plea.
But senior counsel Kapil Sibal, appearing on behalf of Speaker Govind Kunjwal, noted that their plea was coming before the high court on Saturday.