Legitimacy of the President’s decision to suspend Uttarakhand assembly is subject to judicial review as even he can go wrong, the Uttarakhand High Court observed on Wednesday.
Referring to the NDA government’s argument that the President took the decision to impose Article 356 of the Constitution in his “political wisdom”, a bench of chief justice K M Joseph and Justice V K Bist said, “People can go wrong, be it the President or the judges.”
The court also went on to say that “Legitimacy of inference drawn by President from the material placed before him is open to judicial review.”
This observation was made after the Centre contended that the President’s understanding of the material before him would be different from that of the court.
The government’s contention came after the bench said that from the reports sent by the governor to the President, regarding the situation in the state, “what we have understood is that everything was processing towards a floor test on March 28.”
The high court, during the hearing, also noted that the governor in his reports to the President never mentioned that 35 MLAs sought division of votes.
“Governor has to be personally satisfied. He has not recorded his personal satisfaction that 35 MLAs had sought division on the floor of the house,” the court said and added that his reports do not say that the nine rebel Congress MLAs had also sought a division.
It also said that there was “absolute absence of material that would create an apprehension in the mind of the governor” that President’s rule needs to be imposed.
“So how did government of India arrive at the satisfaction that 35 stood up? From governor’s reports?” the court asked.
“Governor’s letter of March 19 to the President does not mention that 35 MLAs had sought division of votes. That is conspicuous by its absence. It is absolutely crucial,” the bench said.
To this the Centre said that on March 19 the governor did not have all the details.
The bench was hearing arguments on the petition filed by the ousted chief minister Harish Rawat and related pleas challenging imposition of President’s rule in Uttarakhand.
The high court also questioned whether the allegation that former chief minister Harish Rawat was “hitting out” at the nine Congress rebel MLAs would constitute material for imposing Article 356.
The court said the “concern” regarding the rebel MLAs was “absolutely irrelevant and unacceptable”.
It also asked “why the secrecy” regarding the Cabinet notes on imposing President’s rule in the state and why it was not to be discussed in the court or even be given to the petitioner (Rawat).
On Tuesday, also during the hearing, the division bench repeatedly maintained that irrespective of allegations of horse-trading and corruption, the only Constitutional way to test majority was to hold a floor test, which “you still have to go for”.
The Centre had also faced searching questions from the court which observed that if the reasons for imposition of Article 356 in the instant case, where ruling parties are different at the Centre and in the state, are accepted then it may lead to the central government “watching with a magnifying glass where there is an opportunity for