Suspense mounted today on the fate of the nine disqualified rebel Congress MLAs with the Uttarakhand High Court reserving its judgement for May 9, a day ahead of the floor test in the state Assembly for sacked Chief Minister Harish Rawat to seek a confidence vote. “The hearing has been concluded. I will pronounce the judgement at 10.15 AM on May 9,” Justice U C Dhyani said in brief remarks counsel at the conclusion of nearly three hours of arguments on both sides.
While ordering the floor test, the Supreme Court had said that the disqualified MLAs cannot participate in the voting if continue to remain disqualified at the time of voting. observing that “if they (disqualified MLAs) have the same status” at the time of vote of confidence, they cannot participate in the House.
The court had also said, “However, our observation in praesenti will not cause any kind of prejudice to the merits of the case of disqualified Members of Legislative Assembly, which is sub-judice before the High Court.”
At present, in the 70-member assembly, BJP has 28 MLAs, Congress has 27, BSP has 02, while there are three independent MLAs and one belongs to Uttarakhand Kranti Dal (P) lawmaker. Nine MLAs are Congress rebels and one is a BJP rebel.
Counsel C Ariyama Sundaram, appearing for the disqualified MLAs, argued that the Speaker’s action against them was “biased” that went against tenets of natural justice.
He contested the three grounds on which the action against the MLAs was taken. He asked what was wrong in the Congress MLAs writing a joint memo to the Governor with their BJP counterparts seeking a division of votes on the Appropriation Bill.
Sundaram said writing a joint memo was an act of dissent which was healthy in democracy and not defection within the meaning of the 10th schedule of the Constitution.
If according to the Speaker the Appropriation Bill was passed by the Assembly, then how does the question of rebel MLAs voting with the BJP in the Assembly arise, he asked.
The Speaker’s action was defended by counsel Amit Sibal who said the action of the rebel MLAs going with the BJP MLAs in the same bus to the Governor and later in the same chartered aircraft outside Uttarakhand in the company of BJP General Secretary Vijay Vargiya showed their ideological compatibility.
The rebel MLAs parading before the Governor with the BJP MLAs also amounted to defection under the anti-defection law, Sibal said.
Sundaram maintained there was nothing wrong in the rebel MLAs going with the BJP MLAs which he said was not an issue of ideology nor did it attract the provisions of the anti-defection law as it did not amount to defection.