The Supreme Court on Wednesday said it will not interfere in matters related to the legislature in Madhya Pradesh to decide which party enjoys the trust of the people, The Hindustan Times reported. The top court was hearing a petition filed by the Bharatiya Janata Party seeking a floor test for the Kamal Nath government in Madhya Pradesh. The state has been in a political crisis, with a collapse imminent for the Congress government, after 22 of its MLAs resigned last week.
The bench comprising Justices DY Chandrachud and Hemant Gupta asked the Madhya Pradesh Assembly Speaker NP Prajapati to decide on resignations of 16 rebel Congress MLAs and adjourned the hearing for Thursday at 10 am. “As a constitutional court, we have to discharge our duties,” the court said.
The Supreme Court observed that the rebel MLAs cannot be held captive, adding that it knows they can “tilt the balance one way or the other”. “The 16 rebel MLAs can either proceed to the floor of the House or not, but surely they cannot be held captive,” the judges said, while striking down senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi’s request to summon the MLAs to the judge’s chamber.
During the hearing, the Congress claimed that the BJP was destroying democracy by muzzling power and the BJP accused them of stalling the floor test which they could not win.
Senior advocate Dushyant Dave, appearing for the Congress, told the court a floor test can be held after the rebel MLAs face a re-election, adding that “heavens are not going to fall” if its government led by Kamal Nath is allowed to remain in office till then. “Let them face re-elections and then hold trust vote... You [BJP] have engineered it. My petition raises the frontal attack that you have launched a conspiracy,” he said. The Congress also said that Governor Lalji Tandon’s direction to hold a floor test was “unconstitutional,” The Indian Express reported.
The BJP, however, vehemently opposed the suggestion and said the Kamal Nath-led government has no “moral, legal, constitutional right” to stay in power. The party said that after the resignations of 22 Congress MLAs, out of which six resignations have been accepted, the state government should not be allowed to continue even for a day.
Rohatgi, arguing for the BJP petitioners, said the Congress was responsible for “the mass murder of democracy” in 1975. “It is absurd that it’s being argued that hold bye-election and then floor test can be held,” he said. “This is not a case of defection. This is a case of resignation and here are people who have resigned and the duty of holding bye-election is that of the Election Commission, not Supreme Court.”
Rohatgi said the governor is the constitutional head of the state and it is his primary duty to ensure that the state functions in accordance with the Constitution. He added the 22 MLAs have said that they do not want to be with the Congress. “They have rejected to be under the banner of the party,” he argued. “Then what should happen?”
Earlier in the day, the Congress had questioned the credibility of the resignation letters submitted to the Speaker and demanded an investigation into it. Dave said the Governor has “no business to send messages at night” asking the Chief Minister or Speaker to hold floor test.“The Speaker is the ultimate master and the Madhya Pradesh Governor is overriding him.”
The party also alleged that the resignations were coerced from the MLAs, and claimed that the legislators were not available for communication after they were flown away in chartered flights to a resort by the BJP.