Explained: What is a floor test? Know what will happen in Karnataka Assembly today

By: | Updated: May 19, 2018 12:32 PM

The Supreme Court on Saturday morning rejected the plea filed by Congress and JD(S) challenging the appointment of pro tem speaker KG Bopaiah ahead of the Karnataka Assembly floor test. The apex court said that Bopaiah will continue as the pro tem speaker but to ensure transparency during the trust vote ordered the live telecast of the proceedings.

Karnataka Legislative Assembly (File photo: PTI)

The Supreme Court on Saturday morning rejected the plea filed by Congress and JD(S) challenging the appointment of pro tem speaker KG Bopaiah ahead of the Karnataka Assembly floor test. The apex court said that Bopaiah will continue as the pro tem speaker but to ensure transparency during the trust vote ordered the live telecast of the proceedings. “Live broadcast of floor test would be the best way to ensure transparency of proceedings,” it said. The floor test which is scheduled to take place at 4 PM will decide the fate of the Bharatiya Janata Party, the Congress and the Janata Dal (Secular) on the floor of the House. With the Supreme Court having ruled that it is the Assembly which will decide which party has the rightful claim to form the government, the focus now shifts to the terms and practices part of the parliamentary procedures of India. As one heads into the floor test in Karnataka, a knowhow of the procedures involved and their application is sure to come in handy. What it is and how procedures take place.

The Indian Constitution has provided several mechanisms for the smooth functioning of the parliamentary democracy in the country. The Supreme Court is the interpreter of the Constitution whenever there is a matter relating to the question of law.

As soon as the election results are declared and published by the Election Commission, political developments start taking place. The party with a majority or highest number of seats or alliances claim the majority and approach the Governor. However, law demands majority to be proved only on the floor of the House.

Governor summons the house for the first sitting so that new government can be formed. Before this, Governor may send an invitation to the party with majority-clearing seats or the single largest party or the alliance to prove the majority on the floor of the house. The day when the floor test is to be conducted is decided by the Governor. However, in Karnataka, the Supreme court has ordered the test before the date set out by the Governor following an appeal filed by the Congress and JD(S).

What is a floor test?

Floor test is a Constitutional mechanism to know whether the executive enjoys the confidence of the legislature, which is mandated by the Indian Constitution. In a floor test, the person who is appointed as the Chief Minister needs to pass it. As per the Constitutional requirement, the Chief Minister of a state is appointed by the Governor.

When a single party gets the majority of seats in the house, the Governor appoints that person as the Chief Minister. However, when no party is in a position to form the government and the Governor appoints the leader of the single largest party or the alliance, the majority is questioned and to prove the majority/confidence the CM is asked to move a vote of confidence and win it to remain the leader of the house.

The Governor orders the floor test and the Chief Minister appointed has to prove that he/she enjoys the confidence of the house. It is tested among the members present and voting. If confidence motion fails to pass, the Chief Minister has to resign.

Composite floor test

While there is another test, Composite floor test, which is necessitated when more than one person stake the claim to form the government and the majority is not clear. Governor may call a special session to assess who has the majority. The majority is counted based on those present and voting and this can be done through voice vote also.

Moreover, the Indian Constitution has provided several mechanisms for smooth functioning of the parliamentary democracy in the country. The Supreme Court is the interpreter of the Constitution whenever there is a matter related to question of law and the latest case relating to the government formation in Karnataka is before the Apex court to clear the matter for the functioning of the constitutional machinery in the state.

Who is a pro tem Speaker and what is his role?

KG Bopaiah, a BJP leader, has been appointed as the Speaker Pro tem for today’s floor test in Karnataka assembly.

As provided by the Constitution, the Speaker vacates his office immediately before the first meeting of the newly elected house. Thereafter, the Governor appoints a member of the assembly as the Speaker Pro Tem. Usually, the senior-most member is selected for the position. The Governor administers the oath to the Pro Tem Speaker.

Pro Tem is the abbreviation of the Latin word, Pro tempore, which means ‘for the time being.’

The Speaker Pro Tem has all the powers of the Speaker. He/she presides over the first sitting of the house. His main duty is to administer oath to the newly elected member. He facilitates the house to elect the new Speaker. As soon as the new Speaker is elected, the office of Pro Tem ceases to exist.

How do the numbers stack up?

Out of the total 224 assembly seats, polls were conducted on 222 seats. The BJP has the highest number of seats(104) but not enough to form the government. On the other hand, Congress (78), JD(S) (37) and others (3) are also not in a position to form the government.

However, the invitation to form the government is with the BJP and the party has claimed the support of MLAs from other parties, but Congress and JD(S) are strongly denying that any of their members are in contact with the BJP and have asserted that their members are united. Congress and JD(S) have also claimed that they are in a position to form the government.

Governor’s role – What the Constitution says

Meanwhile, in Karnataka the Supreme Court has ordered the floor test to be conducted on May 19 instead of the 15 days deadline given by the Governor. The political developments took a dynamic turn in the state after Congress and other opposition parties went to Supreme Court over not being invited by the Governor to form the government. The Governor invited the BJP to form the government for being the single largest party.

The Governor has some options, and should go as per an order of preference set out it in the Sarkaria Commission recommendations and ratified by the apex court. As per the order of preference, the Governor can invite a) a pre-poll alliance of parties; b) invite the single largest party which stakes a claim to form the government with other’s support; c) invite post-poll alliance of parties, with all the partners in the coalition joining the government or d) invite a post-poll alliances of parties, with some becoming part of the government and some supporting from outside.

The opposition is questioning the intent of the Governor due to some of the past cases, where the Governors of some states have invited the alliance to form the government instead of the single largest party. The Governor enjoys situational discretion and he cannot be questioned in a Court of law for his decision.

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