Supreme Court settles MP debate: ‘Governor right in ordering floor test’ – Key Takeaways

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Updated: April 13, 2020 12:35:10 PM

Kamal Nath had said the Governor can only summon, prorogue and dissolve the House, but he cannot decide on the functioning of the Assembly which is the Speaker's power.

Supreme Court of India. (File Photo)

The Supreme Court on Monday rejected former Madhya Pradesh Chief MInister Kamal Nath and Madhya Pradesh Congress’ contention that the Governor cannot ask for a floor test. The top court said that the Governor was right in calling for a floor test. Nath had challenged the Governor’s letter to him wherein the latter had asked for a floor test to prove majority on the floor of the Legislative Assembly. Senior advocate and Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi had submitted that the Governor has very limited powers with regard to functioning of the Assembly. He said the Governor can only summon, prorogue and dissolve the House, but he cannot decide on the functioning of the Assembly which is the Speaker’s power.

Here are the key takeaways from the Supreme Court’s verdict on Madhya Pradesh government formation –

– In a 68-page detailed judgement on the constitutional law and the powers of the Governor, a bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and Ajay Rastogi rejected the Congress’ argument challenging the powers of the Governor to call for a floor test. The top court affirmed that the Governor does have the power to order a floor test. “There is no impediment to the Governor asking a CM to show majority when he has good reasons to believe so,” the court said in its ruling.

– Crucially, the Supreme Court said that the Governor can exercise this power not just when a state assembly goes onto crisis but in a sitting assembly as well. “In a sitting House there are two modalities, no confidence motion or floor test. There has been no judgment since the SR Bommai case on why floor test is necessary. In Bommai the governor has exercised power under Article 356,” Live Law quoted Justice Chandrachud as saying.

– The judgement by the Supreme Court is based on the SR Bommai judgement in which the Governor draws its powers from Article 356 of the Constitution. Tyhe SR Bommai case was a landmark judgment which extensively discussed provisions of Article 356 of the Constitution of India and related issues. The verdict in the case went on to have a huge impact on Centre-state relations.

– With the Supreme Court further clarifying that the Governor can call for a floor test if he has any doubt in his mind could agaun have a significant bearing on instances of conflict between the powers of the SPeaker and the Governor. Such instances have occured in the recent past and the Supreme Court has often had to decide the future course.

– The present case came up after Kamal Nath’s government in Madhya Pradesh lost majority last month following the resignations of several of its MLAs owing allegiance to Jyotiraditya Scindia. Governor Lalji Tandon had written twice asking Nath to prove majority, but the Congress leader snubbed his request, forcing the opposition BJP to move Supreme Court.

The top court ordered Nath to prove majority by he resigned hours before the floor test was to be conducted.

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