Indian Constitution, significant provisions and basic structure.
Separation of powers between various organs, dispute redressal mechanisms and institutions.
Structure, organization and functioning of the Judiciary
Harking back to an interventionist era – Article 356
Article in part XVIII (Articles 352-360); among the Emergency provisions of the Indian Constitution
During President’s Rule-
President administers the state through the governor and the Parliament makes laws for the state
Maximum period: Three years
44th Amendment Act, 1978: Beyond one year, the President’s rule can be extended by six months at a time only when-
A proclamation of National Emergency should be in operation in the whole of India, or in the whole or any part of the State
Election Commission must certify that the general elections to the legislative assembly of the State cannot be held on account of some difficulties
Resolution: Should be passed by simple majority
Perfecting the art of capitalising on dissidence (BJP)
Exhibiting an egregious sign of degenerating political morality while transporting the country to the period prior to the 1990s when the Centre, mostly when the Congress was in power, used to invoke the Article cynically and whimsically to bring non-Congress regimes to heel.
Creation of a new methodology to bring out regime change without having to dissolve the Assembly or placing the relevant Presidential Proclamation before Parliament—
The Uttarakhand example
A partisan decision that flouts the principles laid down by the Supreme Court in the Bommai case of 1994
Justification for the resort to Article 356 of the Constitution:
the supposed loss of majority of the Harish Rawat regime, as evidenced by the Finance Bill being passed by voice vote, disregarding demands for a division;
the disqualification of nine members for alleged defection ahead of a confidence vote set for March 28;
a sting video purportedly showing Mr. Rawat offering inducement to some of the dissidents to return to his fold, thereby raising the possibility of horse-trading and unethical means.
There was no ground for invoking Article 356 within the parameters laid down by the Supreme Court or that a situation warranting Central intervention had not yet arisen
Whether the Appropriation Bill can be passed by voice vote- barred from judicial scrutiny by Article 212 of the Constitution (which disallows courts from inquiring into internal matters of the legislature)
Refusal to have a division raised a presumption of loss of majority and therefore, asked the Chief Minister to prove his strength through a trust vote because the manner in which a Bill is passed — by voice vote, show of hands or a division — is normally well within the province of the Speaker, and he cannot take the absence of division itself as proof of loss of majority.
BJP’s objection to the Appropriation Bill being passed by voice vote- Ionical because its own party’s Chief Minister in Maharashtra, Devendra Fadnavis, won a confidence vote in the State Assembly in 2014 through a voice vote
SC: The Proclamation of President’s Rule as a pre-emptive measure against a possibly manipulated vote is impermissible (Only in case of an extraordinary situation — such as all-pervasive violence)
An established pattern: A political pattern behind the crisis that led to the current situation; The pattern involves dissidence within the ruling party, the opposition joining hands with the rebels, confusion over the likelihood of a floor test, and the Governor intervening in a partisan manner
Supreme Court declared in 1994, that the only place for determining whether a Chief Minister has lost or retained majority is the floor of the House
Sad spectacle of partisan politics overshadowing constitutional propriety—
BJP: Instead of finding ways to facilitate a floor test it has imposed President’s Rule in the midst of an ongoing hearing before a five-member Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court
Congress in the State Failed to address the dissidence in its camp against Chief Minister NabamTuki and now, avoiding a floor test as it has not sought interim orders to that effect from the court.
BUT- Six months had elapsed since the last time the Arunachal Pradesh Assembly met and this itself became a valid ground for Central rule
Also, the past crisis has led us to seek a constitutional question of whether the Governor can summon the legislature on his own and whether he can send a message to the Assembly on what motion it should take up is now before the Supreme Court.
The K.R. Narayanan Minute
Sent by President K.R. Narayanan urging a reconsideration of the recommendation to dismiss the Rabri Devi government in 1998; advising the Vajpayee government that a case of breakdown of constitutional machinery would not be made out unless the Centre had elicited explanations and sent out directives and warnings to the State government concerned
The Vajpayee government saw the wisdom in the argument and did not reiterate its advice. In 1999, the same President did sign a proclamation under Article 356 after a Dalit massacre in Bihar, but the government revoked Central rule within three weeks after realising that it may not receive the Rajya Sabha’s approval.
Since an Assembly cannot be dissolved prior to both Houses adopting resolutions approving President’s rule, one way of achieving some political objectives is to— Dismiss the State government first, and utilise the period in which the legislature is under suspended animation to install a new regime consisting of defectors backed by the Opposition serving the following purposes: Utilization of both the floor-test requirement and the bar on premature dissolution of the Assembly
Hurdle posed by the anti-defection law (Tenth Schedule)—
2003 amendment: A legislature party can’t split into two- Legislators dissatisfied with their party can only merge with another, but such members will have to constitute two-thirds of the original strength for it to be a valid merger
At play ‘the defector’s privilege’:
As only a formal act of voluntarily giving up membership of the party that set one up as a candidate or voting in the House in violation of a whip will attract defection, rebel MLAs now feel free to voice their criticism of their Chief Minister and join hands with the Opposition in political activities.
If the Speaker takes note of their activities and disqualifies them, the plea that they had been arbitrarily disqualified without adequate opportunity to explain their position is often invoked to challenge the action.
Also, partisan Speakers use the disqualification provision to sustain a regime’s lost majority or gloss over the support bought over from Opposition members or independents.
Question: whether the Speaker is the right authority to adjudicate matters of defection
A view: Speaker’s “tenure being dependent on the will of majority therein, likelihood of suspicion of bias could not be ruled out.”
Need: Changing the adjudicating authority in matters of disqualifying defectors
Connecting the Dots:
Discuss the possibility of short-term gains dictating priorities when the procedures are clearly laid out for settling disputes over House Majority.
Critically examine the steps taken on the roadmap of India’s democratic principles in order to uphold constitutional morality and democratic traditions.
Clearing the air on LPG-Several questions have been raised about our estimates of the savings from the DBT scheme for cooking gas. But all parties accept that the programme reduced subsidised sales by 24 per cent.
Can saving a wetland become an election issue in Assam?- At a time when every city is facing water crisis, saving our wetlands has become important not just for biodiversity but for the entire urban landscape