Rawat gets boost as Uttarakhand HC snubs rebel MLAs

SC refuses to intervene; floor test today

Rawat gets boost as Uttarakhand HC snubs rebel MLAs

The Congress on Monday got a shot in the arm as the Uttarakhand High Court rejected the petition filed by 9 party rebels challenging their disqualification from the Assembly, giving ousted chief minister Harish Rawat an edge in Tuesday’s floor test.

The Congress position was further bolstered as the Supreme Court refused to interfere and posted the matter for hearing on July 12 without granting any relief to the Congress rebels.

The apex court action has made it clear that the 9 Congress rebels, who had aligned with the BJP on the controversial passage of the state budget on March 18, cannot take part in the floor test in the Uttarakhand Assembly.

With 9 MLAs ordered to stay away, the effective strength of the Assembly has now become 62 and all Rawat has to ensure is that his flock – 27 Congress MLAs and the six-member Progressive Democratic Front (PDF) — sticks together. Rawat requires a minimum of 31 MLAs to sail through the floor test. The lone nominated member in the Assembly is also a Congress supporter.

“I would like to thank the Supreme Court for the verdict. The verdict has healed the wounds inflicted by defections,” Rawat told reporters in Dehradun. His supporters broke into impromptu celebrations as news about the Supreme Court verdict trickled in.

Reports had it that the two BSP MLAs who are part of the PDF, were having second thoughts on supporting Rawat. But the ousted chief minister has been maintaining that his support base is intact. Of the 28 BJP MLAs in the Assembly, the political loyalty of Bhim Lal Arya is in doubt. Arya had crossed over to the Congress ahead of the Budget Session in March.

Uttarakhand High Court judge U C Dhyani on Monday morning rejected the two writ petitions filed by the rebel Congress MLAs against the Speaker’s action, holding that by their conduct, the lawmakers have “voluntarily given up membership of their political party”, a ground for disqualification under the anti-defection law.

Within minutes of the High Court order, the rebels moved the Supreme Court.The matter was mentioned before Chief Justice of India T S Thakur, who directed the petitioners to the relevant bench of Dipak Misra and Shiva Kirti Singh.

“The prayer for interim relief (for stay of the HC judgment) can be considered on the date of next hearing,” Justices Misra and Singh observed, while fixing the matter for hearing on July 12. It also issued notice to Speaker Govind Singh Kunjwal, who had disqualified the MLAs.

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