M A I N   N E W S

Jharkhand floor test on March 11
SC restrains Governor from nominating Anglo-Indian MLA
S.S. Negi
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, March 9
In an order that has cast shadow on the Jharkahand Governor, Mr Syed Sibtey Razi’s controversial decision on appointing JMM leader Shibu Soren as Chief Minister of the state and giving him time till March 15 to prove his majority, the Supreme Court today advanced the date of floor test in the Assembly to March 11. It also restrained the Governor from appointing an MLA of Anglo Indian community to the 81-member House till the trust vote.

Observing that it was the duty of the Supreme Court to prevent any “fraud on the Constitution”, a three-Judge Bench, comprising Chief Justice R.C. Lahoti, Mr Justice Y.K. Sabharwal and Mr Justice D.M. Dharmadhikari in a series of directions, said that after the oath was administered to the newly elected MLAs tomorrow, the only agenda before the Assembly on March 11 would be the floor test between contending political group leaders, Shibu Soren (UPA) and Arjun Munda (NDA), to decide who has the majority to become the Chief Minister.

Among other directions issued by the court in the order are; video recording of the entire proceeding during the confidence vote, Chief Secretary and Director-General of Police of the state to ensure full protection to each MLA so that they could have uninterrupted entry to the Assembly to cast the vote “freely, safely and securely”, the Pro-tem Speaker not to have any other agenda before the House on March 11 than the floor test.

The directions were issued on a petition by Mr Munda of BJP, who has been elected the leader of 36-member NDA legislative group. The group had claimed the support of five Independent MLAs. Munda’s counsel Mukul Rohtagi gave details of the events that had been taking place in Ranchi since March 2 when Soren was appointed Chief Minister. He also narrated the incident how the police had been searching for each of the five Independent MLAs, supporting the NDA and made an attempt to stop their plane from taking off from the Ranchi airport.

He said efforts were now afoot to get an Anglo-Indian member nominated to the Assembly by Soren’s government even before proving its constitutional validity to stay in office. He claimed this was an attempt to “tilt the balance” in Soren’s favour in gross violation of the laid down conventions.

Taking note of various allegations raised by Munda against the Governor for allegedly not functioning as per the Constitutional mandate and Parliamentary conventions, the Court observed “if the issues raised in the petition are correct than it will be a total fraud on the Constitution. Today we are here to consider an issue of protecting the Constitution...and it is also necessary to prevent further fraud on the Constitution.”

Asking the Jharkahnd government to place before it the video recording of the entire proceedings of the trust vote, the Pro-tem Speaker, appointed by the Governor, was directed to announce the result of floor test “faithfully” and communicate it to the Court on March 14 when it would take up the petition for further hearing to examine the legal questions on Governor’s power, raised by Munda.

“We emphasis that the proceedings will be peaceful, any disturbance will be viewed seriously,” the Bench said, making it clear that its interim direction, would be considered as a notice for continuing the Assembly proceedings on March 11 after it would be convened tomorrow. No separate notice for this purpose would be required, it said.

Rohtagi alleged that the Governor had given a go by to the constitutional provisions, the Supreme Court rulings and the Sarkaria Commission recommendations and completely “ignored” the fact that Munda had repeatedly paraded his supporting MLAs, including the five Independents, who had given in writing their preference to form NDA government, before him in the Raj Bhawan

While putting on record the statement of Jharkhand Government counsel A M Singhvi said that every care would be taken to ensure the compliance of the Court directions in letter and spirit, the Bench said the Chief Secretary and the DGP would ensure that each MLA was allowed to participate in Assembly proceedings without any obstacle.

When Singhvi tried to raise a question of the Court passing an order on the plea of Munda, which according to him were only based on certain apprehensions, stating that Speaker’s order could only be challenged after any presumed event has taken place, the Bench said a duty was cast upon the apex court to “protect the Constitution” and it could use its discretionary powers in this regard.

Though there was no notice to the Jharkhand government, the Court had specifically asked its counsel, who was just watching the proceedings, to explain why a six-day gap had been kept between the convening of the Assembly tomorrow and the trust vote on March 15, the date fixed by the Governor after President A P J Abdul Kalam had summoned him to Delhi.

The Governor had initially given Soren time till March 21 to prove his majority but after his meeting with the President, he had advanced the date to March 15.

HOME PAGE | Punjab | Haryana | Jammu & Kashmir | Himachal Pradesh | Regional Briefs | Nation | Opinions |
| Business | Sports | World | Mailbag | Chandigarh | Ludhiana | Delhi |
| Calendar | Weather | Archive | Subscribe | Suggestion | E-mail |