Maharashtra situation called for maintaining democratic values, citizens’ right of good governance: SC

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New Delhi | Updated: Nov 26, 2019 5:04 PM

The 3-party alliance, Maha Vikas Aghadi, raised questions concerning important constitutional issues "touching upon the democratic bulwark of our nation" and "there is no doubt that the contentions have to be answered", it said.

Maharashtra political crisis, Maharashtra politics, Maharashtra floor test, Maharashtra sc judgment, devendra fadnavis, shiv sena, ajit pawarThe issue of constitutional morality was also dealt by the apex court in its recent November 13, 2019 verdict while dealing with the disqualification of MLAs of Karnataka Assembly.

The legal tussle between the BJP-led parties and the Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress combine over government formation in Maharashtra pertains to a situation calling to “maintain democratic values” and “facilitate the fostering of the citizens’ right of good governance”, the Supreme Court said Tuesday. The 3-party alliance, Maha Vikas Aghadi, raised questions concerning important constitutional issues “touching upon the democratic bulwark of our nation” and “there is no doubt that the contentions have to be answered”, it said.

A bench comprising Justices N V Ramana, Ashok Bhushan and Sanjiv Khanna in the first para of the 19-page order spoke about the boundaries within which the apex court had to act in the situation over government formation. “There is no gainsaying that the boundaries between the jurisdiction of Courts and Parliamentary independence have been contested for a long time. “However, there is a need and requirement for recognizing institutional comity and separation of powers so as to tailor judicial interference in the democratic processes only as a last resort,” the bench observed.

“This case pertains to one such situation, wherein this Court is called upon to adjudicate and maintain democratic values and facilitate the fostering of the citizens’ right of good governance,” it said. It also noted that the situation was such that when both sides are agreeable to the conduction of a floor test, and an order directing it is not prejudicial to anyone, then there is no reason to defer the same. The bench said: “At this interim stage, we may note that it is imperative for this Court to be cognizant of the need to take into consideration the competing claims of the parties, uphold the democratic values and foster constitutional morality.”

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The issue of constitutional morality was also dealt by the apex court in its recent November 13, 2019 verdict while dealing with the disqualification of MLAs of Karnataka Assembly. In the Karnataka judgement, the apex court had emphasized the requirement of imbibing constitutional morality by the constitutional functionaries and undemocratic and illegal practices within the political arena should be curtailed. In Tuesday’s judgement, the bench observed that “in a situation wherein, if the floor test is delayed, there is a possibility of horse trading, it becomes incumbent upon the Court to act to protect democratic values. An immediate floor test, in such a case, might be the most effective mechanism to do so”.

The bench said similar view was expounded by Justice B P Jeevan Reddy in the celebrated nine­Judge Bench decision of this Court in S R Bommai vs Union of India in 1994. The apex court in the Bommai case had held that “the High Court (Karnataka), in our opinion, erred in holding that the floor test is not obligatory. “If only one keeps in mind the democratic principle underlying the Constitution and the fact that it is the Legislative Assembly that represents the will of the people — and not the Governor — the position would be clear beyond any doubt. There could be no question of the Governor making an assessment of his own.”

The apex court in the Bombai case had also observed that “the loss of confidence of the House was an objective fact, which could have been demonstrated, one way or the other, on the floor of the House. “In our opinion, wherever a doubt arises whether the Council of Ministers has lost the confidence of the House, the only way of testing it is on the floor of the House except in an extraordinary situation where because of all­pervasive violence, the Governor comes to the conclusion — and records the same in his report — that for the reasons mentioned by him, a free vote is not possible in the House.”

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