Madhya Pradesh floor test to conclude by 5 pm today: Supreme Court orders Assembly proceedings to be live-streamed - LiveNow24x7: Latest News, breaking news, 24/7 news,live news

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Friday, 20 March 2020

Madhya Pradesh floor test to conclude by 5 pm today: Supreme Court orders Assembly proceedings to be live-streamed

The Supreme Court has directed the Madhya Pradesh Assembly Speaker NP Prajapati to convene a special session on Friday for conducting the floor test which must conclude by 5 pm.

A bench headed by Justice DY Chandrachud also ordered video recording and possible live streaming of the Assembly proceedings when the Kamal Nath-led Congress government would undertake the floor test. The bench, also comprising Justice Hemant Gupta, directed the police chiefs of Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka to provide security to the 16 rebel Congress MLAs if they choose to appear in Assembly for the trust vote.

The bench also ordered that the Assembly will have a single point agenda of the floor test and no hindrance is to be created for anyone. It asked the state Assembly Secretary to ensure that there is no breach of law and order.

The Supreme Court's intervention came after Justices Chandrachud and Gupta, suggested that the Speaker interact with the rebel Congress MLAs through a video link or the court can appoint an observer to allay the fear that the legislators are in captivity. The Speaker, however, refused to accept the apex court's proposal.

The bench had earlier offered to "create conditions" to ensure that "exercise of volition" of the rebel MLAs is "truly voluntary". "We can appoint an observer to Bengaluru or some other place so that the rebel MLAs can connect with the Speaker through video conferencing after which he can decide," the bench said.

File image of the Supreme Court of India. AP

Hearing the case for the second day, the bench asked what can be done -- should the Speaker not take a call on the resignations. Senior lawyer and Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for the Speaker suggested that a reasonable time be given to the Speaker to decide on the same.

"You can't say I will buck my duty to decide and will also put the blame on others. We can create conditions to ensure exercise of their volition is truly voluntary," Justice Chandrachud said and added, "And this is now a national problem. It is happening everywhere. We may not give a direction to the Speaker since we need to work within the domain of the Constitution but we also have to test your bona-fide."

At this point, Justice Gupta said, "If you say an MLA must be in his constituency, then Digvijaya Singh isn't also doing that thing. He should also be in his constituency and not in Bengaluru." "Digvijaya Singh isn't relevant in my example," Singhvi informed the bench.

Reports said that Singhvi further submitted that the Speaker's decision cannot be taken in case the rebel MLAs are produced through video conferencing. At this point, Justice Chandrachud suggested that the court appoint an observer to ensure that the rebel MLAs are acting of their own will and volition. He said that appointing an independent observer to ensure free will of the rebel MLAs is a method to alleviate the apprehension of captivity and coercion. Senior lawyer Maninder Singh, who appeared for the MLAs, said that suggestion was agreeable.

Singhvi urged the court to give the Speaker two weeks' time to decide on the resignation and also requested to allow the rebel MLAs return to Madhya Pradesh "given that they are not in their usual place of residence at the moment", Bar and Bench reported.

Justice Chandrachud further asked all lawyers how the decision of the Speaker, to accept or not accept the resignations, will affect the Floor Test. The top court was told that in case the resignations are not accepted, the rebel MLAs will be bound by the whip issued. Regardless of the whip, the rebel MLAs will not go to the Assembly, Singh informed the court.

Singhvi resumed his submissions and told the court that in case of disqualification, persons have to face another election while resignations do not have this consequence. He reiterated that in a running House, there can be no floor test, only a vote of confidence or no confidence. Singhvi also cited the Karnataka Assembly case, where the floor test was directed to be held within a prescribed period of time.

The counsel appearing for Governor Lalji Tandon told the bench that Madhya Pradesh chief minister Kamal Nath was "sitting aside" in the turn of events and it is the Speaker who is "leading the political battle" in court.

The bench said the constitutional principle that emerges is that there is no restraint on trust vote because of resignation or disqualification being pending before the Speaker. It said, therefore, the court will have to flip around and see whether the Governor acted beyond the powers vested in him.

During the hearing, the bench said that if the government loses the majority when the Assembly was not in session, then the Governor has the power to direct the Speaker to summon the Assembly.

"What happens when the Assembly prorogues and the government loses its majority, then the Governor can call the Assembly," the bench said.

Singhvi said the Governor has very limited power with regard to the functioning of the Assembly and he can only summon, prorogue and dissolve the House, but he cannot intervene into the functioning of the Assembly which falls under the purview of the Speaker.

The Governor cannot ask the Speaker that 'you should do this, you should not do this', it is beyond his power, he said.

The advancing of arguments in the case will commence after the lunch break when senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for Nath would start his submissions.

With inputs from agencies

March 20, 2020 at 08:15AM

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