The Supreme Court at a special sitting on Friday stayed the Uttarakhand high court judgment revoking President’s rule till Wednesday, when the appeal of the central government will be heard in detail.
With this, President’s rule has resumed in the hill state till further order of the court. Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi gave an undertaking that the Centre would not revoke President’s rule in the meantime. This would mean no new government will be formed till the final order of the apex court.
While listing the matter for hearing on Wednesday, a bench comprising judges Dipak Misra and Shiva Kirti Singh said the HC shall provide the judgement passed on Thursday to the parties by Tuesday and on the same date the copy of the verdict shall also be placed before the apex court.
The SC order to keep “in abeyance” the HC judgment has the effect of keeping alive President’s rule in the state till the next hearing. Therefore, no new government can be sworn in till then.
The court also issued notice to then Chief Minister Harish Rawat and the chief secretary of the state. Kapil Sibal, senior counsel for the Speaker, and Abhishek Manu Singhvi, for Rawat, strongly resisted the Attorney General’s (AG’s) plea for stay, arguing no damage will be done if there is no stay and a stay order will amount to allowing the appeal.
The AG said that 27 MLAs, along with nine others from the ruling party in the 70-member House, had asked for a division (voting) to pass the Appropriation Bill. But the Speaker did not allow it and declared the Bill passed voice vote. He narrated the events preceding the proclamation of President’s rule, justifying the Centre’s move. He said the constitutional machinery had broken down and also referred to a sting operation in which Rawat was allegedly seen talking about money deals to appease legislators.
Earlier, hours after the Uttarakhand HC quashed President’s rule, the Rawat government took nearly a dozen decisions through a Cabinet meeting, in a swift bid to assert its authority.
Among the various decisions took on Thursday night, Rawat tried to woo Ganesh Godiyal, a Congress MLA from Srinagar in Pauri district, earlier considered a confidante of BJP leader Satpal Maharaj. The Cabinet decided to take the financial burden of running Rath College of Godiyal in the district.
Rawat also took a host of populist decisions, including disbursement of Rs 5 crore to each of the 13 districts to handle a drought-like situation. The government said it would lower property registration rates. The Cabinet also decided to induct about 6,000 guest teachers in government schools, at Rs 15,000 per month.
The social welfare department was asked to increase the pension of about 600,000 beneficiaries by Rs 200 per month. This will put an additional burden of Rs 13 crore every year on the exchequer.
The Cabinet also decided to provide ownership rights to all those living in slums on government land.
It had also decided to convene an Assembly Session on April 29 for the floor test in view of the Thursday’s High Court order.
Meanwhile, the state unit of the BJP has asked Governor K K Paul not to implement any of the decisions taken by the Harish Rawat government on Thursday evening, describing them “illegal and unconstitutional.”