In a blow to the Congress in Madhya Pradesh, the Supreme Court today said the Governor was within his rights to ask for a trust vote if a government lost its majority while the state assembly is not in session. "If the House is not in session and if the government loses its majority, then the Governor has power to direct Speaker to hold trust vote," said the court, countering the Congress's argument that the Government overstepped his jurisdiction.
"What happens when the assembly is prorogued and a government loses its majority? Cannot the Governor then call the assembly? Since not allowing this would mean a government in minority to continue," said the judges, hearing the BJP's request for an immediate floor test.
The Congress government of Kamal Nath in Madhya Pradesh faces collapse in a trust vote after 22 ruling party MLAs quit last week.
The party had objected to Madhya Pradesh Governor Lalji Tandon asking the Speaker to call a trust vote.
Speaker NP Prajapati has accepted only six of the resignations and has asked the others to confirm their decision in person. The MLAs have refused to return to Bhopal without protection; they allege that the Congress has been trying to force them to withdraw their resignations and they are under immense pressure.
The court asked the Speaker if he could speak via video link to the rebel Congress MLAs.
"We can create conditions to ensure exercise of their volition is truly voluntary. We can appoint an observer to Bengaluru or some other place. They can connect with you on the video conferencing and you can then decide," said Justice DY Chandrachud.
The Speaker asked for two weeks. "Give me two weeks to decide. Let the rebel MLAs come back to Madhya Pradesh, their homes. They are living in an unnatural habitat, away from their families. The idea of video-conferencing only validates my apprehensions," said senior lawyer and Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi, representing him.
To which, Justice Chandrachud said: "Weeks are gold mines for horse-trading. It is why the court has been proactive in ordering the floor tests. The idea is to force the hands and make sure the floor test happens as soon as possible and prevent such things."
The rebel MLAs are loyal to former Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia, who quit last week and joined the BJP. The Congress insists that the MLAs are being held captive in Bengaluru in BJP-ruled Karnataka, even though many of them have been regularly posting videos saying they came of their own volition.
Without the six Congress MLAs whose resignations have been accepted, the party now has 108 legislators. These include 16 of the rebels in Bengaluru.
The BJP has 107 seats in the Madhya Pradesh assembly, which now has an effective strength of 222. The majority mark is 112.