Floor test in Madhya Pradesh assembly must be held by Friday: SC
In a disappointment for the Congress in Madhya Pradesh, the Supreme Court on Thursday (March 19) said the governor has the power to ask the speaker to summon the Assembly if the government loses its majority when the Assembly is not in session.
The ruling Congress government in Madhya Pradesh suffered yet another setback on Thursday (March 19) as the Supreme Court directed the floor test in the state assembly should be held by 5 PM on Friday (March 20).
The top court’s direction came in response to a petition by the BJP, which wanted an immediate resolution of the issue. The BJP has been seeking a floor test, contending the Kamal Nath government was in minority following the resignation of 22 MLAs loyal.
Earlier in the day, the top court had said the governor has the power to ask the Speaker to summon the assembly if the government loses its majority when the assembly is not in session.
A bench of justices DY Chandrachud and Hemant Gupta were responding to the arguments of AM Singhvi, the counsel of Speaker NP Prajapati, who questioned the role of Governor Lalji Tandon in asking Prajapati to summon the assembly. The Congress had objected the the Tandon’s summoning the assembly for a trust vote.
“What happens when the assembly prorogues and the government loses its majority, then the governor can call the Assembly,” the bench comprising Justices DY Chandrachud and Hemant Gupta told Singhvi.
Singhvi had earlier argued that the governor has very limited power with regard to functioning of the Assembly and he can only summon, prorogue and dissolve the House, but he cannot intervene into the functioning of assembly which falls under the purview of the speaker.
“The governor cannot ask the speaker that you should do this, you should not do this, it is beyond his power,” he said.
However, he added, the governor has the right to summon the House but it cannot decide the functioning of the House.
While the apex court suggested Prajapati to interact with the rebel Congress MLAs through video link and that the court can even appoint an observer to allay the fear that the legislators are in captivity, the former refused the proposals.
“We can appoint an observer to Bengaluru or some other place so that the rebel MLAs can connect with the Speaker through video conferencing after which he can decide,” the bench said.
It also asked the speaker whether any inquiry was made on the resignation of the rebel MLAs and what decision has he taken on them.
Singhvi, said the day court begins to give time-bound direction to the speaker, it will be constitutionally problematic.
The counsel appearing for Governor Tandon told the bench that Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath was “sitting aside” in the turn of events and it is the Speaker who is “leading the political battle” in court.
The bench asked all the parties how does the decision of a speaker in matters of resignation and disqualification of MLAs affect the floor test. It said the constitutional principle that emerges is that there is no restraint on trust vote because of resignation or disqualification being pending before the speaker. It said, therefore, the court will have to flip around and see whether the governor acted beyond the powers vested in him.
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The advancing of arguments in the case will commence after lunch break when senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for Nath would start his submissions.
The Kamal Nath government faces a fall if the speaker accepts the resignations of all the 22 MLAs loyal to Jyotiraditya Scindia. The speaker has so far accepted that of six of them.
(With inputs from agencies)