Supreme Court floors Fadnavis government

While asking Governor BS Koshyari to conduct a floor test within a day, the Supreme Court referred to a nine-judge Constitution bench judgment in 1994 and a few other similar verdicts where it had ordered floor tests within a short deadline. However, just five hours after Tuesday’s ruling, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis resigned.

Interestingly, of the various precedents mentioned in the three-judge SC bench order, one is from Uttarakhand – Koshyari’s home state – in 2016. The last precedent is from Karnataka where in May, 2018, the SC ordered a floor test resulting in the then Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa conceding defeat on the floor of the house.

Justices NV Ramanna, Ashok Bhushan and Sanjiv Khanna, in their 19-page order, observed, “We may note that in the present case, oath has not been administered to the elected members even though a month has elapsed since the declaration of election results. In such emergent facts and circumstances, to curtail unlawful practices such as horse trading, to avoid uncertainty and to effectuate smooth running of democracy by ensuring a stable Government, we are of the considered opinion that it is necessary to pass certain interim directions in this case.”

Before arriving at that conclusion, the bench observed that it was incumbent upon the Court to protect democratic values, and a floor test was the best way to do so. It cited the 1994 judgment in the SR Bommai case where the SC had overturned the proclamation of President’s rule in Karnataka.

In that judgment, the SC had ruled that it was the legislative assembly which represented the will of the people and not the office of the Governor. “There could be no question of the Governor making an assessment of his own. The loss of confidence of the House was an objective fact, which could have been demonstrated, one way or the other, on the floor of the House. In our opinion, wherever a doubt arises whether the Council of Ministers has lost the confidence of the House, the only way of testing it is on the floor of the House except in an extraordinary situation where because of all-pervasive violence, the Governor comes to the conclusion — and records the same in his report — that for the reasons mentioned by him, a free vote is not possible in the House,” the court had then ruled.

The SC’s Tuesday order also cited past decisions on Uttar Pradesh (1999), Jharkhand (2005), Uttarakhand (2016), Goa (2017) and Karnataka (2018).

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