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March 31, 2020
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SC orders for floor test in MP by 5 pm on Friday

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The Supreme Court on Thursday directed Madhya Pradesh Assembly Speaker N P Prajapati to convene a special session on Friday for conducting the floor test which must conclude by 5 pm.

A bench, headed by Justice D Y Chandrachud, also ordered video recording and possible live streaming of the Assembly proceedings when the Kamal Nath-led Congress government undertakes the floor test.

The bench, also comprising Justice Hemant Gupta, directed the police chiefs of Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka to provide security to the 16 rebel Congress MLAs if they choose to appear in assembly for trust vote.

The bench also ordered that the assembly will have a single point agenda of the floor test and no hindrance is to be created for anyone.

 

It asked the state assembly secretary to ensure that there is no breach of law and order.

Earlier in the day the apex court suggested that the Speaker should interact with the rebel Congress MLAs through video link or the court can appoint an observer to allay the fear that the legislators are in captivity.

However, the Speaker refused to accept the proposal.

The bench said it can create conditions to ensure that “exercise of volition” of the rebel MLAs is “truly voluntary”.

“We can appoint an observer to Bengaluru or some other place so that the rebel MLAs can connect with the Speaker through video conferencing after which he can decide,” the bench said.

It also asked the Speaker whether any inquiry was made on the resignation of the rebel MLAs and what decision has he taken on them.

Senior advocate A M Singhvi, appearing for the Speaker, said the day court begins to give time-bound direction to the Speaker, it will be constitutionally problematic.

The counsel appearing for Governor Lalji Tandon told the bench that Nath was “sitting aside” in the turn of events and it is the Speaker who is “leading the political battle” in court.

The bench asked all the parties as to how does the decision of a Speaker in matters of resignation and disqualification of MLAs affect the floor test.

It said the constitutional principle which emerges is that there is no restraint on trust vote because of resignation or disqualification being pending before the Speaker. It said, therefore, the court will have to flip around and see whether the Governor acted beyond the powers vested in him.

During the hearing, the bench said that if the government loses the majority when the assembly was not in session, then Governor has the power to direct the Speaker to summon the Assembly.

“What happens when the assembly prorogues and the government loses its majority, then the Governor can call the Assembly,” the bench said.

Singhvi said the Governor has very limited power with regard to functioning of the Assembly and he can only summon, prorogue and dissolve the House, but he cannot intervene into the functioning of assembly which falls under the purview of the Speaker.

The Governor cannot ask the Speaker that you should do this, you should not do this, it is beyond his power, he said.

However, he added, the Governor has the right to summon the House but it cannot decide the functioning of the House.

The plea filed by former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and nine BJP lawmakers was moved in the top court just after the Speaker cited coronavirus concerns and adjourned the House till March 26 without taking the floor test apparently defying the directions of Governor Lalji Tandon.

On Saturday night, Tandon wrote to Nath asking him to seek trust vote in the Assembly soon after the Governor’s address on Monday, saying his government was in minority.

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 Bharatiya Janata Party has 107 seats in the House, which now has an effective strength of 222, with the majority mark being 112.

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