Explained! Why Uddhav Thackeray may still have the last laugh and BJP might bite the dust

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Updated: November 12, 2019 10:12:08 PM

Maharashtra President's Rule: The Supreme Court has the power to revoke President's rule in the state and order a floor test.

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Maharashtra Political Crisis: BJP’s estranged ally Shiv Sena’s decision to challenge Maharashtra governor Bhagat Singh Koshiyari’s decision to not extend the time given to the party to muster the numbers has plunged the state into an uncertain political future. Shiv Sena has decided to challenge the order in the Supreme Court but according to constitutional experts, the time to challenge the governor’s decision has already passed as the President’s rule has already been imposed in the state. However, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray can still have the last laugh as the Supreme Court has all the powers to revoke President’s rule and order a floor test in Maharashtra assembly.

The situation may be extremely embarrassing for the BJP as the Union government’s decision to impose President’s rule in Uttarakhand in March 2016 was quashed by the Uttarakhand High Court a month later. The court had also restored Harish Rawat led Congress government in the state. Later, he was able to win the floor test following a judgment by the apex court in his favour.

“The stage to challenge the governor’s decision is over as the state has already been brought under the President’s rule,” said PDT Achary, former secretary-general of the Lok Sabha.

He, however, said that the decision to impose President’s rule under Article 356(1) can be challenged in the courts.

Constitutional experts feel that the governor’s decision to keep the assembly under suspended animation allows the political parties desirous of forming a coalition government in the state to come together and form some kind of coalition that can stake the claim.

“President’s rule keeps the assembly under suspended animation. The assembly has not been dissolved. During the President’s rule other parties can come together,” said VK Agnihotri, former secretary-general of the Rajya Sabha and a noted constitutional expert.

“If they (political parties) go to court then the court can look into the merits of the governor’s decision that on what basis the governor has decided to recommend the President’s rule,” he told Financial Express Online.

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The issue of presidential powers to impose President’s rule in a state has already been discussed in detail the Supreme Court’s landmark judgment in the SR Bommai case in 1994 which concluded that the question of majority enjoyed by a government can only be decided in a floor test in the assembly.

One of the issues before the court was whether it can look into the advice tendered by the council of ministers to the President or not which has been barred by Article 74 of the Constitution. The court, however, decided that it can look into the material which was used for obtaining the satisfaction of the President.

After the SR Bommai case, the courts can look into three issues: material used by the council of ministers; whether the material was relevant and whether it’s a case of mala fide use of powers. And if the court is satisfied that there was a mala fide use of power then it can provide the remedy by revoking the President’s rule.

According to constitutional experts, the Supreme Court or even Bombay High Court has the power to revoke the President’s rule and order a floor test. They say even before the court’s order, political parties can form a coalition and once again approach the governor to recommend the repeal of the President’s rule and formation of a government in the state.

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“The political parties can try to form some kind of coalition in the meantime and approach the governor to form a government,” said constitutional expert PDT Achary.

He also rejected the possibility of the Union government getting any relief on the ground that revocation of President’s rule in the state may lead to horse-trading.

“Whether these three parties (Shiv Sena, NCP-Congress) together have a clear majority or not? If they have a clear majority then where is the question of horse-trading?” he asked.

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