Quick Take

Supreme Court rules correctly on Maharashtra crisis

| Updated on November 26, 2019 Published on November 26, 2019

Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis to face floot test on November 27.   -  The Hindu

A floor test tomorrow will hopefully bring an end to a prolonged political drama. But questions over the role of the Governor and Constitutional proprieties remain

At a time when the pillars of democracy are tottering and the checks and balances built into the Constitutional system are at risk of withering away, the Supreme Court’s order on Tuesday to resolve the Maharashtra political imbroglio reinforces just that bit of faith that all hope is not lost.

With its direction that the ‘floor test’ be conducted as early as on Wednesday, and that the proceedings in the Assembly be telecast live, the Court has acted decisively to pre-empt any effort by the BJP to play political mischief. The spirit of today’s order abides by the ruling in the landmark SR Bommai case – which established that the only venue to settle contesting claims of legislative strength is the floor of the Assembly. The abridged time-frame given by the Supreme Court for the floor test also limits the scope for the parties concerned to sway the vote through dubious methods if it had had time on its side.

There is still much about the messy political situation in Maharashtra that goes against the letter and spirit of Constitutional norms. In particular, the Governor’s role in manifestly working to help the BJP fashion a government – without adequate evidence that it enjoyed the support of a majority of the elected legislators – has been egregiously partisan. He made no effort to ascertain whether the BJP-breakaway NCP combine had the requisite numbers. A floor test right then would have been in order.

The Governor did not give the post-poll alliance put together by the Nationalist Congress Party, the Shiv Sena and the Congress sufficient time to advance their case. For the BJP to attempt to exploit the internal differences between the three parties is one thing; for the Governor to be complicit in this is prima facie unconstitutional. His furtive conduct only adds to the existing disrepute that is associated with the office of the Governor.

The case for the Supreme Court to circumscribe the discretionary powers of the Governor and clarify the Constitutional ambiguity about his role in the case of a hung Assembly remains valid. That debate must perhaps await another day, but hopefully its order today will effectively bring the curtains down on the sordid political drama in Maharashtra.

Ideally, the senior-most member of the House should be selected as the pro-tem speaker (pro-tem is the latin term for ‘for the time being’). The pro-tem speaker is supposed to be selected consensually by the legislators. How that consensus will emerge amidst this slugfest and pandemonium is a moot question.

Published on November 26, 2019
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