The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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No-show leaves room for court clash

New Delhi, March 11: The adjournment of the Jharkhand Assembly without holding the floor test violates the Supreme Court's orders and could spark a clash between the legislature and the judiciary.

The court had made it clear on Wednesday that the test should be the sole agenda of the House and 'any disturbance would be viewed seriously'.

The chief secretary and the director-general of police may have to explain the developments to the court as they were directed to ensure that MLAs 'cast their votes safely, freely and securely' without influence from anybody.

Shibu Soren resigned as Jharkhand chief minister late tonight on a directive from the Manmohan Singh government.

The former Supreme Court Bar Association president and Supreme Court senior counsel, M.N. Krishnamani, said the notion that 'a pro tem Speaker does not conduct confidence vote is wrong'.

'The Constitution does not distinguish between a full-fledged and a pro tem Speaker and the latter enjoys all the powers of the former. Now the pro tem Speaker could be in contempt of the court,' he said.

'Further, the chief minister, without whose encouragement his partymen would not have shouted and created chaos, may have to also answer the court. All parties should have issued a whip for the floor test.'

Krishnamani said under Article 141, 'all organs of the state shall help implement a Supreme Court order and by declaring that a pro tem Speaker does not conduct confidence vote anywhere in the world, the pro tem Speaker has violated this constitutional mandate also'.

He said the Goa pro tem Speaker had only recently conducted the trust vote and disqualified an MLA to facilitate the victory of Congress chief minister Pratapsinh Rane. 'Now here in Jharkhand, the Congress pro tem Speaker says he cannot conduct the floor test.'

Senior counsel Rajiv Dhavan, who may appear for the Jharkhand governor in the court on Monday, said: 'At any cost, this sort of confrontation should be averted. A crisis would be created if the Supreme Court issues contempt notices against all or any legislator.'

Dhavan said the 'Supreme Court has given an order which sought to control the internal proceedings and lay down procedure' for the Jharkhand Assembly.

But the MLAs took the view that the legislature must follow its own procedure and no other wing of the Constitution can dictate it, just like the legislature cannot lay down the procedure for conduct of business in the Supreme Court, he said. In this situation, the order 'became impossible and it cannot be argued that the Speaker was in contempt nor would it be appropriate to confront' MLAs as being in contempt of it'.

Another senior counsel, Shanti Bhushan, said: 'Whether the Supreme Court has overstepped and whether the Speaker or pro tem Speaker should abide by it is another matter but to hold that pro tem Speakers in no part of the world conducts vote of confidence is false.'

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