SC Orders Floor Test Via Open Ballot In Maharashtra
Observing that there is a possibility of horse trading if the floor test in Maharashtra Assembly is delayed, the Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered it to be conducted tomorrow through an open ballot and be telecasted live to determine the strength of the BJP-led Maharashtra government.
A three-judge bench headed by Justice N V Ramana passed the order on a joint-petition filed by Shiv Sena, Congress and NCP challenging Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari’s decision to swear-in Fadnavis as chief minister and NCP’s Ajit Pawar as his deputy last week. The trio had sought a direction to conduct an immediate floor test.
Floor test is a constitutional mechanism under which a chief minister can be asked to prove majority in the state Assembly.
Pronouncing the order on their petitions, the bench put forth a procedure to be followed to conduct a floor test. It directed a Protem Speaker to be appointed solely for this purpose.
“All the elected members shall take oath on 27.11.2019, which exercise should be completed before 5:00 pm,” the court stated in its order copy.
Immediately thereafter, the Protem Speaker will conduct a floor test in order to ascertain whether BJP’s Devendra Fadnavis has the majority.
“These proceedings shall be conducted in accordance with law. The floor test will not be conducted by secret ballot,” the bench ordered, adding that the proceedings will have to be live telecasted and appropriate arrangements be made to ensure the same.
The court also said that it is “necessary and expedient” to conduct the floor test to determine whether the chief minister, who was administered the oath of office, has the support of the majority or not.
The bench also observed that the oath has not been administered to the elected members even though a month has elapsed since the declaration of election results.
“In such emergent facts and circumstances, to curtail unlawful practices such as horse trading, to avoid uncertainty and to effectuate smooth running of democracy by ensuring a stable government, it is necessary to pass certain interim directions in this case,” the top court stated.
The court also granted eight weeks’ time to Centre, Maharashtra, Devendra Fadnavis, and Ajit Pawar to file their counter affidavits on the joint plea. The matter is likely to be listed after twelve weeks.