Tuesday, March 29, 2016
A STATE WITHOUT A BUDGET
President’s Rule has been imposed in the State of Uttarakhand. Article 356 of the Constitution can be invoked only if the President is satisfied that there are grounds for believing that the governance of the State cannot be carried on in accordance with the Constitution.
The Congress party in the State of Uttarakhand split after a section of the leadership alleged that they were dis-satisfied both with the Chief Minister and the central leadership of the Congress party. The split was on account of reasons internal to the Congress party. Nine Members of the Congress party in the Legislative Assembly decided to vote against the Appropriation Bill which provides for the budget of the State. On 18th March 2016, it appears that 35 Members voted against the Appropriation Bill and 32 in favour. These 35 Members comprised of 27 from the BJP and 9 rebel Congress men. There is documentary evidence both prior and subsequent to the Assembly Session to suggest that these 35 Members asked for a Division of Votes. The proceedings of the Assembly circulated in writing establishes the charge that a Division was asked for and yet it was claimed that the Appropriation Bill has been passed without a vote.
There are strong facts to suggest that the Appropriation Bill was actually defeated. As a consequence, the Government had to resign. Two further consequences flow out of this. Firstly, the Appropriation Bill sanctioning expenditure from 1st April 2016 was not approved and, secondly, if the Appropriation Bill was defeated, the continuation of the Government subsequent to 18th March 2016 is unconstitutional. It is to be noted that till today, neither the Chief Minister nor the Speaker have forwarded a certified copy of the Appropriation Bill to the Governor. Obviously, there is no assent of the Governor to the Appropriation Bill.
In any case, all facts surrounding the alleged discussion and passage of the Appropriation Bill clearly indicate its non-passage. There is a cloud and a serious doubt about the Appropriation Bill. There is a complete breakdown of the Constitutional machinery in as much as the Government, which should have resigned on the 18th of March with the failure of Appropriation Bill, has decided to continue. As of today there is no Appropriation Bill certified by the Speaker which has received assent of the Governor. If it is Speaker’s case that the rebels voted in favour of the Appropriation Bill and, hence, it has been passed, then the rebels could not have been disqualified.
Having plunged the State into a serious Constitutional crisis by continuing a Government which should have quit after the failure of the Appropriation Bill, and further complicating the crisis the Chief Minister started allurement, horse-trading and disqualification with a view to altering the composition of the House. After the Assembly has been put under suspended animation and the decision has been made public, the Speaker has decided to disqualify some Members. The Constitutional breakdown has been compounded further by this action. On 18th March the majority was declared to be a minority and vice versa, and on 27th March the composition of the House was attempted to be changed in violation of the Constitution to convert a minority into a majority. This is an unprecedented case of a Speaker declaring a failed Appropriation Bill as passed and then failing to certify falsehood. This leaves the State without any approved financial expenditure with effect from 1st April 2016. What better evidence do we need of a breakdown of Constitution? The Congress Government of Uttarakhand was murdering democracy every day from the 18th of March till the 27th of March. It is now incumbent upon the Central Government to ensure that steps are taken under Article 357 to authorise expenditure of the State with effect from 1st April 2016.