Ruchika M. Khanna
Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, September 21
In a major embarrassment for the Bhagwant Mann-led Aam Aadmi Party government, Punjab Governor Banwari Lal Purohit on Wednesday withdrew his assent to hold a Special Session of Punjab Vidhan Sabha on Thursday.
He had earlier given his assent and summoned the one-day Special Session of the assembly last night.
While the Opposition parties hailed the decision to cancel the session for Thursday, the ruling Aam Aadmi Party cried foul.
“The governor not allowing the assembly to run, raises big questions on the country's democracy. Bhim Rao Ji's Constitution on one side and Operation Lotus on the other... People are watching,” said Punjab CM Bhagwant Mann.
The AAP rank and file has accused the Governor of “acting on the directions of BJP, which has tried to topple the AAP government, by offering bribes and/or issuing threats to its nine MLAs, including the deputy speaker of Vidhan Sabha, Jai Krishan Singh Rouri”.
“It proves the sinister design of Operation Lotus and raises a question mark over the intent of the Governor,” said Rajya Sabha MP Raghav Chadha.
“Governors are bound by the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers and have no discretion in these matters. Parliamentary democracy in India will come to a standstill if Hon’ble Governors start exercising discretion in matters such as the convening of Vidhan Sabha sessions,” he later tweeted.
The session was called by the government to bring a confidence motion in wake of the alleged bid by the Bharatiya Janata Party to topple the six-month-old government. An FIR against “unknown” was also registered on the complaint of deputy Speaker Rouri, on September 14, in this regard. As soon as the Governor withdrew his assent for the session, ministers started queuing up at the residence of CM Mann. Though it remains unconfirmed, the party is contemplating holding a mock Vidhan Sabha session on the issue tomorrow.
The order sent from the Governor’s office to the Secretary, Punjab Vidhan Sabha, Surinder Pal, also carries a letter from the Principal Secretary to Governor, J M Balamurugan. This letter says that the Governor has received representation from Leader of Opposition Partap Singh Bajwa, Congress MLA Sukhpal Singh Khaira and BJP state president and MLA Ashwani Sharma today, saying there was no provision to convene a Special Session to move Confidence Motion only in favour of the state government.
“The matter was examined and legal opinion was sought from Additional Solicitor General of India Satya Pal Jain. He has has given his legal opinion that there is no specific provision regarding summoning of the Assembly for considering the ‘Confidence Motion’ only, in the Punjab Vidhan Sabha Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business. In the light of the above legal opinion, which establishes that there is no legal provision under Punjab Vidhan Sabha Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business that provides for convening a Special Session for Motion of Confidence only, the Governor Punjab has withdrawn his Order dated September 20, regarding summoning of the State Assembly on September 22,” says the letter.
According to information available with The Tribune, the office of Governor had earlier sent queries to the state government, asking them if the rules permitted for holding a special session of Vidhan Sabha for holding a Confidence Motion only, and asked for the rules in this regard to be quoted.
“We had sent the reply that confidence motion could be brought by the government, and said this was a Parliamentary convention. A confidence motion was also moved by the Darbara Singh government in 1981, and a copy of the Vidhan Sabha proceedings then, was also forwarded to the office of Governor,” a top government official told The Tribune.
‘If there is just one item on agenda, a session cannot be convened’
Former deputy speaker Bir Devinder Singh, who had first raised questions over the validity of convening the Special Vidhan Sabha session, told The Tribune today that he had earlier in the day received a call from the Punjab Governor’s office, asking him to give detail his objections.
“I had contacted the Governor’s office yesterday, after he had given his approval and convened the session. His staff contacted me today and I asked them to call for the rule book. If there is just one item on agenda, a session cannot be convened,” he said.
Governor vs AAP govt: No the first time
This is not the first time that the Punjab Governor Banwari Lal Purohit and the AAP government have been on different pages. While the state government is busy trying to propagate its actions against the drug menace, the Governor, in his recent visit to border areas, has been critical of the state government’s handling of cross-border smuggling of drugs.
Earlier, he had refused to pass the ordinance on One MLA One Pension and on regulating the use of Rural Development Fund.
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