The Supreme Court on Thursday said it is not inclined to create a situation by giving two weeks time to Speaker NP Prajapati to decide on the resignations of 16 rebel MLAs from Madhya Pradesh Congress, as the delay could become a “gold mine” opportunity for “horse-trading”.
A bench headed by Justice DY Chandrachud and comprising Justice Hemant Gupta expressed its unwillingness to facilitate or create any kind of political situation which leads to horse-trading in the ongoing political crisis in Madhya Pradesh.
“Weeks are gold mines for horse-trading. It is why the court has been proactive in ordering the floor tests. The idea is to force the hands and make sure the floor test happens as soon as possible and prevent such things,” Justice Chandrachud said.
Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, representing Madhya Pradesh Speaker Narmada Prasad Prajapati, had earlier requested the top court to grant two weeks time to decide on the resignations. “Let the rebel MLAs come back to Madhya Pradesh, their homes,” he had prayed.
Senior BJP leader Shivraj Singh Chouhan, meanwhile, speaking to reporters questioned the need for two weeks time to take a call on the resignation of 16 rebel Congress MLAs.
“Why do they want more time? For engaging in horse-trading? Now they know that they do not have the numbers. It’s an excuse to get some more transfers done,” Chouhan said.
The Supreme Court was hearing plea filed by 10 BJP MLAs including former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan seeking a floor test for the Kamal Nath government as per the direction issued by Governor Lalji Tandon.
The apex court today observed that the Madhya Pradesh political crisis had become a national problem, not peculiar to Congress.
The court emphasized that irrespective of political parties, the Speaker do not decide such issues, where MLAs have offered resignation, in a time-bound manner.
Singhvi insisted that the rebel MLAs present themselves before the Speaker in Bhopal and then he would take a decision on their resignation within two weeks.
The bench proposed that the rebel MLAs could also be asked to present themselves before the Speaker at a neutral venue through video conferencing.
However, this suggestion was opposed by the Speaker’s counsel contending that no direction could be given to him to decide on the resignation in a time-bound manner.
The bench reiterated would the Speaker agree to the court appointing an observer to find out the free will of 16 rebel MLAs on their resignations. And, this process could be easily carried out through a video-conferencing, which would enable the Speaker to take a decision whether to accept or reject resignations within a day.
The Speaker’s counsel insisted that even the apex court cannot abrogate his power by asking to take a decision in a time-bound manner.
The bench insisted that delay in taking a decision would eventually lead to horse-trading and it does not want such a situation to arise.
The bench queried the Speaker’s counsel on Governor’s powers, and asked whether the House was in session and then if the incumbent government lost majority, under these circumstances, would the Governor have the power to direct the Speaker to hold trust vote on the floor of the House.
The Speaker’s counsel said the Governor cannot decide whether the government has lost majority or not.
Singhvi said: “The Governor has only three powers — to summon, yo prorogue and to dissolve the House.
“Governor cannot decide whether the government has lost majority or not, it is for the House to decide on this issue.”
However, in a setback for the Congress in Madhya Pradesh, the Supreme Court said the Governor was within his rights to ask for a trust vote if a government lost its majority while the state assembly is not in session. “If the House is not in session and if the government loses its majority, then the Governor has power to direct Speaker to hold trust vote,” said the court.
“What happens when the assembly is prorogued and a government loses its majority? Cannot the Governor then call the assembly? Since not allowing this would mean a government in minority to continue,” the judges observed.
The Supreme Court on Wednesday had refused to interfere in the Madhya Pradesh floor test issue stating that it is not going to come in the way of the legislature to decide who enjoys the trust.
Heated arguments broke out between senior counsel of the BJP and the Congress in the Supreme Court, where the later insisted on a floor test in the state Assembly be deferred till bypolls and quoted BR Ambedkar on constitutional methods to achieve goals. The BJP contested it saying the party which imposed Emergency is citing lofty ideals of Ambedkar.
The top court, however decided to continue hearing on Thursday, as the BJP insisted that it can bring the 16 rebel Congress MLAs and present them before Justices Chandrachud and Gupta in chamber and the judges can ascertain the views of MLAs.
The Supreme Court had asked the BJP how the court could be sure that the 16 rebel Congress MLAs from Madhya Pradesh, staying at a resort in Bengaluru, had exercised their choice to tender their resignations from the state Assembly freely?
Twenty-two MLAs of Congress submitted their resignations last week after Jyotiraditya Scindia joined the BJP, pushing the 15-month-old Kamal Nath government to the brink of collapse. Of these, the Speaker has accepted resignations of six MLAs.
Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath had on Monday said that he has the numbers after his Congress government was asked by the Governor to prove its majority by Tuesday, hours after it got a 10-day breather with the Assembly being adjourned till March 26 reportedly over the Coronavirus outbreak.
Following this, the BJP moved the apex court seeking a trust vote.