Chance for SC to uphold democracy

Chance for SC to uphold democracy

The Supreme Court’s stay on the Uttarakhand High Court’s order striking down the imposition of the President’s rule in the state has added uncertainty to the political situation in the state. The high court order had reinstated Harish Rawat as chief minister, but the state is again under the President’s rule now. The stay will hold till next Wednesday when the court will hear the matter again. Apparently, the stay has been granted not after reviewing the substantive issues mentioned in the high court order but because of the non-availability of a written copy of the court’s order. As a matter of caution, the Supreme Court has also barred the Central government from revoking the President’s rule and installing another government in the state. The Centre had deviously installed a government of its liking in Arunachal Pradesh after dismissing the Congress government there some weeks ago. The high court had told the Centre not to resort to similar action during the course its hearing of the case.

The high court’s order was a major setback for the Modi government. On every substantive issue raised in the case, like the status of the Rawat government, the disqualification of 9 Congress rebel MLAs and the holding of a trial of strength in the state Assembly, the court went against the Central government’s views and positions. More important than the government’s humiliation on these issues was the affirmation of the ideas of constitutional correctness and propriety by the court. The judgment had again reminded the nation that the courts remain the last resort in the defence and protection of the Constitution. The Centre had committed a major mistake by dismissing the state government a day before it was to test its strength on the floor of the House, and the court had sought to correct it.

The landmark Bommai case judgment is clear on the use of Article 356 and on how a government’s majority is to be decided. Yet, governments have tried to circumvent it through various strategems. There is another opportunity now to look at a Central government decision in the light of that judgment. The high court had said that the government’s action was contrary to the law and amounted to “cutting at the root of democracy.” It also did well to reiterate the principle that the President had no absolute powers and the exercise of Presidential power was open to judicial review. The Supreme Court will hopefully uphold the best constitutional norms and put an end to the political uncertainty in the state at the earliest.

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