Vajubhai becomes second NDA governor to be rapped by courts
In a display of the majesty of the Indian Constitution's scheme of checks and balances, the Supreme Court Friday made a massive intervention in the process of government formation in Karnataka.
After the midnight courtroom drama two days ago, all eyes were on the top court today, as it resumed the hearing on the Congress party's petition challenging Governor Vajubhai Vala's invitation to Bharatiya Janata Party's BJP's BS Yeddyurappa to form the government.
After hearing arguments from both sides, the court came to the conclusion that “floor test to ascertain the majority of one or the other group is conducted immediately and without any delay”.
The top court's order bringing down the time given by Governor Vala to Yeddyurappa to prove majority in the Assembly from 15 days to just one was a momentous ruling. It will be remembered and cited as a landmark precedent from now on.
It had been widely argued that the Governor's conduct in matters of government formation was beyond judicial scrutiny, but the apex court has proved that to be a fallacy.
The verdict will stand as a lesson for future governments elsewhere too since abuse of the discretionary power given to a Governor by the Constitution was a rampant practice so far.
For Karnataka, this verdict will mean that the BJP camp will get only about one day now to get non-BJP MLAs to defect. The BJP has 104 MLAs, 8 short of the magic number required to prove majority in the Assembly. Congress-JD(S) combine has 117 MLAs.
Fearing poaching of MLAs from their camp, Congress and JD(S) had packed off their MLAs to a resort in Hyderabad. They were gearing up for a 15-day stay, but are on their way back to Bengaluru now.
Though the SC order does not reprimand the Governor for giving Yeddyurappa 15 days, the order itself is an embarrassment for Vala. In his letter to him seeking the crucial invitation, Yeddyurappa made no effort to convince the Governor that he had the numbers and yet the Governor invited him.
The embarrassment for BJP is heavier in light of the fact that Vala has become the second NDA Governor to have his actions overturned by the courts.
In July 2016, the SC restored the Congress-led government in Arunachal Pradesh, after terming as “illegal” and “violative of constitutional provisions” Governor JP Rajkhowa’s advancement of the session of the state Assembly.
The advancement had triggered an intense round of political crisis in the state leading to the imposition of President’s Rule on January 26. Uttarakhand's case must also be recalled, wherein the Uttarakhand High Court quashed the Centre's decision to impose President's Rule in the state, April 2016.
Challenging the arbitrariness that was evident in the imposition of President's Rule, the SC had noted that “there is no king or absolutism. Howsoever high you are, the law is above you.”
BJP as well as all other political parties must heed to these three judgments. They must always remember that no one should get so arrogant to assume that in the name of Constitutional powers they will do anything and get away with it. In Karnataka, for now, its over to the House.