The Supreme Court on Monday ruled that Madhya Pradesh Governor Lalji Tandon had the power to call for a floor test in the Assembly upon the resignation of 22 Congress MLAs last month, The Indian Express reported.

A bench, headed by Justice DY Chandrachud, said the governor was justified in ordering a floor test “given the facts of the case”, as the Congress government led by Kamal Nath had lost majority. In its 68-page judgment, the bench rejected Nath’s contention that the governor can, at best, call for a session but not ask for a floor test in a running Assembly.

The court also relied on a 1994 judgement that said that if the chief minister refuses to test his party’s strength on the floor of the Assembly, it can be interpreted as initial evidence of him no longer enjoying the confidence of the legislature. “There’s no impediment to a governor asking a chief minister to show majority,” the top court said according to News18.

Senior advocate and Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi, representing Nath, had argued that the governor has very limited power with regard to functioning of the Assembly. He added that the governor cannot intervene in the Assembly’s operations, and contended that it came under the purview of the Speaker. Singhvi said the governor only possessed the right to summon, prorogue and dissolve the House. However, the Supreme Court rejected this contention.

The Nath-led Congress government collapsed after 22 of the party’s MLAs resigned on March 10 following the resignation of senior leader Jyotiraditya Scindia, who later joined the Bharatiya Janata Party.

On March 23, BJP leader Shivraj Singh Chouhan took oath as the Madhya Pradesh chief minister. The following day, he won a floor test easily, as Congress MLAs boycotted the Assembly session.

On Sunday, Nath had accused the Centre of delaying the countrywide lockdown to contain the coronavirus outbreak so that a BJP government could be formed in Madhya Pradesh. The Centre had imposed the 21-day lockdown starting March 25, a day after Chouhan won the floor test.