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New Delhi, March 16, 2020
The Madhya Pradesh BJP has cited the Supreme Court's decisions in eight cases to establish the primacy of a floor test where it is prima facie proven that the incumbent government does not enjoy the confidence of the legislature, and there should be a test of strength on the floor of the Assembly.
Madhya Pradesh is witnessing political turmoil after 22 Congress MLAs resigned, leaving the Kamal Nath government tottering.
On Monday, the Madhya Pradesh BJP unit filed a plea in the Supreme Court seeking an order to the MP Assembly Speaker to hold a floor test within 12 hours, as per the direction issued by Governor Lalji Tandon.
The BJP cited precedents in the Bommai judgement (1994), the most cited case in hung Assemblies; Nabam Rebia & Bamang Felix vs Deputy Speaker, Arunachal Pradesh Legislative Assembly, (2016); the recent Shiv Sena v. Union of India, (2019), where apex court directed floor test in 24 hours; Rameshwar Prasad judgement (2006); G. Parmeshwara (2016), and three other judgements where the apex court directed immediate conduct of floor test.
Through these cases, the petition filed by Madhya Pradesh's former Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan contended that it is essential that a floor test is conducted on March 16, as already directed by the Governor, so that it becomes absolutely clear as to whether the Chief Minister continues to enjoy the confidence of the majority of the Madhya Pradesh Vidhan Sabha.
"Any deferment of the floor test will further encourage horse trading and would be in utter violation of the directions issued by the Governor, law laid down by this court and the spirit and basic structure of the Constitution", said the petition.
The Arunachal Pradesh judgement given by a five-judge Constitution bench held that if the Governor has reason to believe that the Chief Minister has lost confidence of the house, it is open to the Governor to require the Chief Minister to prove the majority in the house by a floor test.
The judgement emphasised that only in a situation where the government in power on the holding of such floor test is seen to have lost the confidence of the majority, it would be open to the Governor to exercise the powers vested with him under Article 174 at his own, and without any aid and advice.
The five-judge Constitution bench in Rameshwar Prasad case referred to the need of following the Sarkaria Commission report, where if there is a claim and counterclaim regarding the majority of the government in the house, the course for the Governor is to order a floor test.
In this case, the apex court said, "We are firmly of the view that when a number of Members of the Legislative Assembly approach the Governor and contest the claim of the incumbent Chief Minister to continued majority support in the Assembly, the Governor should not risk a determination of this issue on his own outside the Assembly. The prudent course for him will be to cause the rival claims to be tested on the floor of the House."
The apex court cited that such a procedure will not only be fair but also seen to be fair, and it will also save the Governor from embarrassment consequent upon any error of judgment on his part.
In 1994, a nine-judge Constitution bench judgement in S. R. Bommai vs Union Of India, which held that a Chief Minister's refusal to test his strength on the floor of the Legislative Assembly can well be interpreted as prima facie proof of his no longer enjoying the confidence of the legislature.
The case has become the most cited in instances of hung Assemblies when parties scrambled to form a government.
Citing the Bommai judgement in its support, the plea contended this had held that if the support to a government is withdrawn by some legislators and the government appears to have lost the confidence of the house, it is the duty of the Governor to direct the government to prove the majority by a floor test.
The apex court is likely to hear the petition on Tuesday.