The Supreme Court will hear on Tuesday a plea by former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister and senior BJP leader Shivraj Singh Chouhan seeking a direction to the Kamal Nath-led Congress government to undertake the floor test to prove its majority, saying it has "no moral, legal, democratic or constitutional right" to remain in power.
In fast-paced developments on Monday, Chouhan and nine BJP lawmakers, including the leader of opposition and BJP's Chief Whip in the state Assembly, knocked the doors of the top court just after Speaker N P Prajapati cited coronavirus concerns and adjourned the house till March 26 without taking the floor test apparently defying the directions of Governor Lalji Tandon.
The plea, which was mentioned before the mentioning officer of the apex court for an urgent hearing, sought a direction to the Speaker, the Chief Minister and the Principal Secretary of the Assembly to "hold the floor test in the Madhya Pradesh Legislative Assembly within 12 hours of the passing of the order by this court and as directions...issued by Governor".
The plea will be taken up for hearing on Tuesday by the bench comprising Justices D Y Chandrachud and Hemant Gupta.
The three-time Chief Minister, in his plea, said: "On account of lack of confidence and resignation of 22 MLAs of Congress party, out of which the resignation of 6 MLAs having been already accepted by Speaker, the government led by Chief Minister has been reduced to minority. It has no moral, legal, democratic or constitutional right to remain in power even for a single day." The plea alleged that all possible attempts are being made by Nath to convert "his minority government into majority by giving all possible threats, allurements to the members of the Madhya Pradesh Vidhan Sabha".
It said the horse-trading was at its peak and hence, it was essential that the floor test was conducted on March 16 itself as already directed by the Governor, so that it becomes absolutely clear as to whether the state government continued to enjoy the confidence of the majority of house.
Any deferment of the floor test will further encourage "horse trading" and will be in utter violation of the directions issued by the Governor, law laid down by this court and the spirit and basic structure of the Constitution of India, it added.
The plea alleged that the Speaker, the Chief Minister and the Principal Secretary of the Assembly have "flagrantly violated the constitutional principles and have deliberately and wilfully defied the directions" issued by the governor asking the government to prove the majority on the floor of the house on March 16 when when the budget session was to commence.
It said there was internal dissatisfaction in Congress leaders and it came in public domain as many felt "betrayed due to non-fulfilment of many promises which were made by their party prior to elections".
"It has emerged that the dissatisfaction of members of Congress party reached such proportions that 22 members who were elected as candidates set up by Congress party tendered their respective resignations to the Speaker of the legislative assembly on March 10," it said.
It said that a floor test is constitutionally imperative because the Nath government in the state has been reduced to a minority on account of lack of confidence and resignation of 22 Congress MLAs.
"It is becoming clear on every day that the Chief Minister is fully conscious that he has lost confidence of 22 MLAs belonging to his own party and reduced to minority and he does not wish to face floor test unless and until he gets an opportunity to either pressurise them or purchase them to vote in his favour," said the petition.
The plea alleged that Nath does not wish to face floor test unless and until he gets an opportunity to either pressurise them or purchase them to vote in his favour.
The petition claimed that media reports have said the Chief Minister and his party tried to pressurise and threaten the 22 congress MLAs to withdraw their resignations, as a result of which they left the state.
It referred to various apex court judgements in cases including the S R Bommai matter and said that it was held that if the support to a government is withdrawn by some legislators then it is the duty of the Governor to direct the government to prove the majority by floor test.
It also referred to the recent Maharashtra political crisis in which the top court had ordered the floor test within 24 hours.
Besides Chouhan, nine other BJP MLAs, including Gopal Bhargava, leader of Opposition in Madhya Pradesh Legislative Assembly and Narottam Mishra, the Chief Whip of BJP in assembly are parties to the petition.
On Saturday night, Governor Lalji Tandon wrote to Nath asking him to seek a trust vote in the Assembly soon after the Governor's address on Monday, saying his government was in minority.
The Governor had also directed that the trust vote be held by division of votes and the process be recorded on video by the Vidhan Sabha through independent persons.
"The above work must be completed under any circumstances on March 16, 2020 and it should not be adjourned, delayed or suspended," he had said in the letter. After the Speaker accepted the resignation of six Congress MLAs on Saturday, the party now has 108 legislators. These include 16 rebel legislators who have also put in their papers but their resignations are yet to be accepted.
The BJP has 107 seats in the House, which now has an effective strength of 222, with the majority mark being 112.