President too can go wrong: Uttarakhand HC (Lead, changing dateline)

Dehradun, April 20 (IANS) The Uttarakhand High Court on Wednesday said that the president of India is not a king who is infallible but can go wrong and that his decision is open to judicial scrutiny.

“Absolute power can spoil anybody’s mind. Even the president can go wrong and in such case his decisions can be subjected to scrutiny. Indian courts have the power to scrutinise all orders,” the court said.

The strong observation from the high court came as a bench of Chief Justice K.M. Joseph and B.N. Bisht was hearing outgoing Uttarakhand chief minister Harish Rawat’s plea challenging the imposition of President’s Rule in Uttarakhand.

Rawat’s counsel and Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi contended that the Centre’s action to impose President’s Rule was not permissible on the pretext that the governor had termed ‘controversial’ the assembly speaker Govind Singh Kunjwal’s approval to a legislation.

He said that the president, governor or the Centre could not decide if the demand for a division of votes (in the assembly) should be accepted or not. This power rested with the assembly speaker, Singhvi said and added that the governor’s report sent to the Centre did not mention any constitutional crisis in the state.

The counsel stressed that the majority or otherwise of the government is decided only on the assembly floor.

The high court had criticised the Centre during a previous hearing over the imposition of the President’s Rule in Uttarakhand on March 27, a day before a floor test was due to be carried out in the assembly.

During Wednesday’s hearing, Centre’s counsel Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said that as per confidential documents, opposition leader Ajay Bhat had written a letter to the governor saying that 27 legislators had demanded floor test in the assembly and the list did not have the names of nine dissident Congress MLAs.

“On March 18, at 11.30 p.m., Bhat along with 35 MLAs handed over to the governor (K.K. Paul) at the Raj Bhavan a letter to inform him of the situation after the non-passage of the money bill,” Mehta told the court.

He said that despite the failure of a money bill, the speaker maintained it had been passed, which tantamounted to making fun of the consitution.

The high court heard the arguments from both sides in the case during proceedings that continued till 5 p.m.

The next hearing is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. on Thursday and the high court could possibly decide the matter on Thursday.

Uttarakhand was plunged into a political crisis when nine Congress legislators, including former chief minister Vijay Bahuguna, whom Rawat replaced, revolted against the chief minister and turned to the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for support.

In the 70-member assembly, the Congress has 36 legislators, including the nine rebels. The BJP has 28. The other six members, from smaller parties, are said to support the Congress.



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