Madhya Pradesh floor test case: No to parade of rebel Congress MLAs in SC, hearing again tomorrow
The crisis in the Madhya Pradesh assembly is deepening. The demand for a floor-test of the Kamal Nath-led government has reached the Supreme Court. Meanwhile, Congress leader Singh was arrested as he was trying to meet the rebel Congress MLAs who are staying at a resort in Karanataka’s Bengaluru.
The Supreme Court could decide the fate of the 15-month-old Kamal Nath government in Madhya Pradesh. Shivraj Singh Chouhan, former Chief Minister and vice president of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), had approached the apex court on Monday after the Madhya Pradesh assembly was adjourned until March 26.
MP Governor Lalji Tandon served two notices to CM Kamal Nath to conduct the floor test and prove the majority of his government. But neither Kamal Nath nor the MP assembly speaker NP Prajapati have budged from their stance. The BJP has also brought about a no-confidence motion against the Congress government.
Meanwhile, Congress leader and former MP CM Digvijay Singh tried to meet with the rebel Congress legislators staying at a resort in Bengaluru. The Karnataka Police thwarted his attempts. Singh, along with Congress leaders Sachin Yadav and Kantilal Bhuria, were placed under preventive arrest.
"I should have been allowed to meet my MLAs. I am a law-abiding citizen,” Singh told the media when he was picked up by the police. “We will save the government and rein in our legislators as well.”
Karnataka Congress president DK Shivakumar speaking to the media said, “Digvijay Singh has come to meet our party MLAs. One of the MLAs had contacted him through telephone and requested him to free them.”
Bengaluru: Congress' Digvijaya Singh, Karnataka Congress president DK Shivakumar and #MadhyaPradesh Congress leader Sajjan Singh Verma reach Commissioner's office.— ANI (@ANI) March 18, 2020
Congress leaders Digvijaya Singh, Sachin Yadav&Kantilal Bhuria were placed under preventive arrest,earlier today. pic.twitter.com/Bo2cnxo5uA
“Police do not have the right to block him, he wants to request higher authorities as these people are acting on instructions of CM,” Shivkumar said.
On March 17, the Supreme Court had issued notices to Kamal Nath, assembly speaker Prajapati, and Governor Tandon, seeking their responses on the petition filed by former CM Chouhan.
Chouhan, in his petition, sought an immediate floor-test in the Madhya Pradesh assembly so that the majority of the Kamal Nath government can be proved.
Supreme Court hearing adjourned, to resume tomorrow
Senior SC lawyer Kapil Sibbal, arguing for CM Kamal Nath, requested the apex court the MP CM wants to meet the rebel Congress legislators. However, the rebel MLAs declined the proposal.
Singh instead proposed that the rebel Congress MLAs were willing to come in front of the apex court. However, Justice Chandrachud, turning down the request, said, "it won't be appropriate".
As per reports, Mukul Rohatgi suggested that the rebel MLAs could appear in front of the Registrar General of Karnataka and it can be live-streamed.
The two-judge bench has adjourned the matter for the day. The hearing in the Madhya Pradesh floor test petition filed Shivraj Singh Chouhan will resume tomorrow at 10.30 in the morning.
SC asks if rebel MLAs come, will the speaker take a call on their resignations
The SC bench asked the MP assembly speaker whether it will decide upon the resignations of the rebel MLAs immediately if they come to the assembly.
Senior advocate Singhvi, representing assembly speaker NP Parajati, said that it might take one or two days. However, the advocate of the rebel legislators, Maninder Singh, declined the proposal.
"We won't meet the speaker. It is a matter of our safety," Singh said.
BJP files complaint against Digvijay Singh
The BJP has approached the Chief Election Commissioner against Congress' Rajya Sabha candidate Digvijay Singh. According to reports, in its letter, the BJP has claimed that Singh tried to pressurise 16 MLAs, staying in Bengaluru's Ramada Hotel, to vote in his favour.
The saffron party has accused Singh of violating the model code of conduct.
Congress leader Digvijay Singh to go on fast until he is allowed to meet the rebels MLAs
Senior Congress leader and former MP CM, Singh during his press conference in Bengaluru announced that he will sit on a fast until he allowed to meet the rebel Congress legislators staying in a Bengaluru resort.
"I have filed a plea in the Karnataka High Court, seeking permission to meet MP Congress' MLAs who are putting up at Bengaluru. I have decided to be on fast and shall take a call on that after the decision of the Supreme Court and the High Court," Singh told the media. The Karnataka police had earlier arrested him as he was trying to the rebels staying inside the Ramada resort.
Trust vote is conducted in a fresh assembly
Representing MP assembly speaker, senior advocate AM Singhvi argued that trust vote cannot be conducted in a running assembly. As per reports, he said only confidence or no-confidence motion can be brought in running the House. He also argued that the Governor's assumption that the Kamal Nath government is in minority is wrong as per conventions. He further added that the resignations need to be accepted by the speaker.
Scindia ditched Congress: Digvijay Singh
Meanwhile, in Bengaluru, senior Congress leader Digvijay Singh held a presser and attacked BJP leader Jyotiraditya Scindia for the Madhya Pradesh government crisis.
According to news agency ANI, Singh said, "we were let down by Jyotiraditya Scindia who had a very successful career in Congress. We never expected that he would ditch us and join hands with BJP".
Digvijaya Singh, Congress: BJP is busy in toppling duly-elected govts. We had successfully thwarted plans to destabilize MP govt but we were let down by Jyotiraditya Scindia who had a very successful career in Congress. We never expected that he would ditch us&join hands with BJP pic.twitter.com/X97Nte4Aju— ANI (@ANI) March 18, 2020
The rebel MLAs refuse to meet the Congress
Singh, representing the rebel MLAs, informed the Supreme Court that the Congress rebel legislators are ready to face the consequences as per the Constitutional provisions but they will not meet the party leaders.
Congress rebels question the role of MP assembly speaker Prajapati
The Congress rebels legislators too are arguing in the Madhya Pradesh floor test case. Advocate Maninder Singh is representing the 16 MLAs whose resignations are still pending with assembly speaker NP Prajapati.
Singh, per reports, argued that these MLAs have a Constitutional right to resign. He questioned that how can the speaker decide on a few resignations and sit on others. "Can he sit on the resignation? Can he be choosy that he'll accept some, not accept others because the political game is going on?" the lawyer representing the rebel Congress MLAs said.
The SC refuses parade of rebel Congress MLAs in the court
As per reports, Justice Hemant Gupta observed that if the Congress rebel legislators come to the Madhya Pradesh assembly they should be allowed to have free access to the assembly. The apex court had sought suggestions on ensuring free access of the assembly to these MLAs. Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi suggested that Congress rebels can be brought to the Supreme Court.
However, the SC turned down this suggestion.
The SC seeks response on rebel MLAs from MP Governor Tandon
The Supreme Court bench observed that the court needs to ensure that 16 Congress MLAs, staying in the Bengaluru resort, can exercise free will.
Justice Chandrachud reportedly asked senior SC lawyer Tushar Mehta whereabouts of 16 MLAs who have resigned from the Congress party. After which Mehta informed the court that Governor Lalji Tandon doesn't know about it.
Mehta is representing Madhya Pradesh Governor Lalji Tandon in the case.
He further added that there are videos available in which these MLAs can be heard claiming that they have not been abducted by anyone.
Justice Chandrachud: We know that Mr. Dave made submissions on the fixed term of the House for five years but we are aware that it not exactly how the Constitution works.— Bar & Bench (@barandbench) March 18, 2020
We just want your assistance in how to ensure that the legislature decides who has the majority?
Digvijay Singh our Rajya Sabha candidate, hence he went to meet Congress MLAs in Bengaluru: Kamal Nath
Meanwhile, MP Chief Minister Kamal Nath has expressed displeasure over the Karnataka Police's conduct. Nath told the media that Singh is the Congress' Rajya Sabha candidate and that is why he had gone to meet the MLAs staying in the Bengaluru resort.
"But he (Singh) was told that he is a security risk. Did he become a security risk amid 500 Karnataka police personnel? This shows MLAs have been held hostage and the BJP is attempting to hijack the (Congress) government," Nath said.
The SC observes about 16 rebel MLAs and their stay in Bengaluru
Rohatgi reportedly argued that if the Governor feels that the state government is in minority, then he can advice that the floor test should be conducted. He further added the apex court needs to look into the alternatives that the Governor has before the recommendation to impose the President's rule.
Justice DY Chandrachud observed that the MP assembly speaker has yet not decided upon the resignation of 16 Congress rebel MLAs. He said the Congress is claiming that these MLAs were taken away to Bengaluru.
"We can't compel MLAs to attend proceedings but what we can do is to ensure they can make their own decision," Justice Chandrachud reportedly observed.
J Chandrachud points out discrepancies in the affidavits filed by the MLAs in terms of their role in this case.— Bar & Bench (@barandbench) March 18, 2020
These are points that the Court needs to be alert about
These 16 either proceed to the floor or don't but surely they can't be held captive and how do we ensure this?
Before imposing the President's rule, the Governor should explore all options
Senior lawyer Mukul Rohatgi has argued in the Madhya Pradesh floor test case that the Governor must first try to find an alternative before making a report to the President saying the State is not functioning in accordance with the Constitution.
"This is a stage prior to the imposition of Article 356 (President's rule)," Rohatgi said.
The SC bench resumes hearing
Justices - DY Chandrachud and Hemant Gupta have assembled for post-lunch hearing in the Madhya Pradesh floor test case. The petition was filed by BJP vice president Shivraj Singh Chouhan on March 16 seeking immediate floor test of the Kamal Nath government in the MP assembly.
Senior SC lawyer Mukul Rohatgi is arguing for the BJP.
Senior lawyer Mukul Rohatgi is representing the BJP
Mukul Rohatgi argued that 22 Congress rebel MLAs have made it clear that they don't want to stay with the Congress and they don't want to go to Bhopal as well.
The BJP claims in the Supreme Court that the Congress rebels have refused to stay under the banner of the Congress party.
Justice Chandrachud, before rising for lunch, observed, "the Speaker has to accept the resignation first and satisfy himself."
Dushyant Dave, who was arguing for the Congress, has reportedly concluded his arguments in the MP floor test case. He had objected to senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi arguing for the BJP.
As per reports, Mukul Rohatgi called Dave's argument absurd. Earlier Dave had claimed that floor test should be conducted in the MP assembly only after the by-polls are held in the state.
Rohatgi, who is representing the BJP and former CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan, said, "This is not a case of defection." He further said that "the duty of holding by-election is that of the EC, not Supreme Court". The senior SC advocate also defended MP Governor Tandon saying that he is the constitutional head of the state.
Congress says hold by-polls before the floor test
Arguing for the Congress party, senior advocate Dushyant Dave triggers a new debate on anti-defection law. Dave said in the SC, "defection can also happen when you resign, not only when you join another party." He added that there is a need for re-election and then only trust vote of Kamal Nath government should be conducted.
The Congress claims that there is a conspiracy by the BJP to de-stabilise the Madhya Pradesh government.
According to reports, Justice Hemant Gupta responding to Dave's re-election argument said, "that's what they are doing. They are giving up on their membership & may go back again to the voters."
Justice Hemant Gupta: That's what they are doing. They are giving up on their membership & may go back again to the voters.— Bar & Bench (@barandbench) March 18, 2020
Dave: Heavens aren't going to fall that Congress must go immediately & Shivraj Singh's Govt must be saddled on the people. #MadhyaPradeshPoliticalCrisis
Supreme Court asks about status of resignations of MLAs
The SC bench enquired about the status of the resignations tendered by 22 Congress rebels MLAs.
After Jyotiraditya Scindia's resignation from the Congress, 22 Congress MLAs including six ministers had tendered their resignations. They have moved to the Bengaluru resort and so far the Congress has failed to rein them in.
Senior SC lawyer Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who is representing MP assembly speaker NP Prajapati, responded to the question saying the resignation of six ministers were accepted.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta is representing MP Governor Lalji Tandon in the case. The SG informed the SC bench that Governor Tandon had first accepted the resignation of their resignations as ministers and thereafter their resignations as members of the assembly was accepted by the speaker.
Meanwhile, Dave had again questioned the role of Governor Lalji Tandon.
The Governor cannot override the assembly speaker: Congress
The Congress has argued that the powers of the assembly speaker are supreme and the Governor cannot override him.
During the MP floor test hearing, senior SC advocate Dave, "stable governance should be considered as a basic structure of the Constitution so that nobody tends to work against the stability of an elected government."
22 rebel #MadhyaPradesh Congress MLAs, who are currently lodged in Bengaluru, have written to Karnataka's Director General of Police, requesting that 'no Congress leader/member be allowed to meet them to ensure that there is no threat to their life and security.' (file pic) pic.twitter.com/TN164WNW3v— ANI (@ANI) March 18, 2020
Senior advocate Dushyant Dave, representing Congress MLAs, questioned the role of MP Governor Lalji Tandon.
Dave argued that the Governor does not represent the BJP and is supposed to and expected to act neutral.
He said that the Governor was confident that the Congress had lost the majority. According to reports, Dave further questioned, "Is this how the august office (of Governor) is supposed to function? How is he confident without hearing anyone?"
The Congress has claimed that its legislators have been held captive and had sought more time to reply in the floor test case. The party has also cited the Coronavirus outbreak as a reason to not hold the floor test right now.
Hearing in the Madhya Pradesh floor test begins
Justice Dy Chandrachud commences hearing in Shivraj Singh Chouhan's petition seeking floor test in Madhya Pradesh assembly.
According to reports, the Congress Party has appealed to the apex court that final decision in the matter shouldn't be delivered. Senior SC advocate Dushyant Dave, representing the Congress, said that the matter should be sent to a Constitutional bench.