Imposition of President’s rule in Uttrakhand at a time when Parliament has been in Session led to a ticklish situation where running Government’s fiat through ordinance was not possible. Thus, the Government had to prorogue the Budget Session and clear the way for the Finance Bill for the central Himalayan State through an ordinance, writes Junaid Kathju
BJP’s political manoeuvres that dominated news through the past couple of months ended up with the prorogation of the Parliament to enable the Government to issue an Ordinance connected with the Centrally-ruled Uttarakhand.
Wielding Article 356 - one of the most misused provisions in the constitution - the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been creating ripples in the political waters of Congress-ruled states, serving a blow to federalism. First it was Arunachal Pradesh. Soon Uttarakhand ordeal followed. And the trail now seems to be leading to Himachal Pradesh. But it was the proroguing of Parliament close on the heels of the Uttarakhand crisis that has raised the eyebrows.
Just two days after the Centre imposed President’s rule in the tiny hilly State of Uttarakhand on March 27 citing a constitutional breakdown there, the Budget session of Parliament was prorogued. To common people it appeared an unusual development. But the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance Government knew that it would face embarrassment if Parliament continued as it would not be able to ratify President’s rule in Uttarakhand. In Rajya Sabha, the BJP and its allies have only 57 members. For ratification of the Centre’s move both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha’s nod is must. Facing Opposition’s ire on its controversial decision, the Narendra Modi-led Government was sure that bill regarding ratification of the President’s rule would suffer a humiliating defeat in the Rajya Sabha. Before it could happen the Centre decided to prorogue the Session to enable the Government to issue an ordinance for clearing the Finance Bill for the State.
Governor’s rule was imposed in Uttarakhand in the wake of a rebellion in the ruling Congress party. This allegedly had a covert BJP hand. The political crisis in the State arose on March 18 when the Appropriation Bill was declared passed in the Assembly by the Speaker. However the BJP and the nine rebel Congress claimed that a division of votes pressed by them was not allowed.
Former Secretary General of the Lok Sabha, PDT Achary says the imposition of President’s rule in Uttarakhand was without constitutional basis and there was no need to prorogue parliament.
Achary argues that President’s rule cannot be imposed under Article 356 due to a procedural irregularity in the proceedings of the Assembly.
“To presume that the Government was in a minority, and, thus, unconstitutional, when the Appropriation Bill was put before the house on March 18 makes no sense because the grants were passed just before that by the same House. Moreover, the question of majority was to be decided on March 28 as per the Governor’s direction. Until such a vote is held, the Government is presumed to have the confidence of the House,” Achary has written in an article.
On March 27, President Pranab Mukherjee signed the proclamation under Article 356 of the Constitution dismissing the Congress Government headed by Harish Rawat and placed the Assembly under suspended animation. Only two days later, the Budget Session of Parliament was prorogued to enable the Government to issue an Ordinance for authorising expenditure in the Uttrakhand.
Former Secretary-General of theLok Sabha, Dr Subhash C Kashyap talking to Policy Pulse said that even though proroguing Parliament is within the ambit of Indian constitution, whether it was required at this point of time is value judgement.
“Government has the power to prologue parliament under the constitution and approve the ordinance. So it is not unconstitutional or illegal. But what compelled the Government to do so cannot be judged without having the proper information,” Kashyap said
Citing precedents, Kashyap said that proroguing parliament takes place only in unique cases.
“There was wrong correspondence between Speaker Ganesh Vasudev Mavalankar and then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. Mavalankar was not in favour of proroguing Parliament simply because Government wanted to pass the ordinance, but Nehru’s stand was different and there was long correspondence between the two. At the end of it both agreed that it should be implemented only in exceptional cases,” Kashyap said.
Series of events
1. On March 27, Centre brought Uttarakhand under President’s rule citing a constitutional breakdown in the wake of a rebellion in the ruling Congress.
2. On March 29, the Budget Session of Parliament was prorogued to enable the Government to issue an Ordinance for authorising expenditure in Uttrakhand
3. On April 1, Congress moved the Uttarakhand High Court challenging a ordinance authorising expenditure in the State.
4. On April 7, the High Court slamming the Centre, said there would be no floor test in Uttrakhand till April 19. The High Court asked the Attorney General, appearing on behalf of the Centre, as to what was the hurry to pre-empt the floor test in the Assembly on March 28 by imposing President's rule a day earlier.