MP Political Defection and hearing in the Supreme Court

The Supreme Court observed that a contract is void if prohibited by a statute under a penalty, even without express declaration that the contract is void

In the present case, the petition has been filed by Shivraj Singh Chouhan against State of Madya Pradesh And Others, for not conducting floor test as per directions of His Excellency, Governor. The matter being heard by two judge bench of the Supreme Court and it is being heard on 19th March, 2020.[1]

Background:

On 16th March, 2020, the petition was filed in the Hon’ble Supreme Court,[2] by Shivraj Singh Chouhan & Ors. and others v. Speaker, Madhya Pradesh Legislative Assembly & Ors. as the Respondents Nos. 1 to 3, have violated the constitutional principles and have deliberately and willfully defied the directions issued by Hon’ble Governor dated 14.3.2020 requiring the Respondent No.2-Hon’ble Chief Minister to prove his majority on the floor of Madhya Pradesh legislative assembly, when the budget session of the legislative assembly was to commence.

Brief facts:

The 15th legislative assembly of Madhya Pradesh was constituted in December, 2018 after the conduct of general elections. The assembly has a strength of 230 seats. After the constitution of assembly, the Indian National Congress (“Congress party”), which had won 114 seats had staked claim to form the government with the support of 4 independents, 2 members of Bahujan Samaj Party and 1 member of the Samajwadi party. Thus, the Congress party claimed support of 121 members in the assembly and sought to form the government. Subsequently, the Hon’ble Governor invited the Congress party to form the government and Shri Kamal Nath was sworn in as the Hon’ble Chief Minister. The main opposition party namely the Bhartiya Janata Party (“BJP”) won 109 seats in the legislative assembly.

The plea was filed due to the migration of former Congress MLA Jyotiraditya Scindia to BJP last week. 22 members of the assembly who were supporting the government, no longer support it, who  have tendered their resignation to the Speaker on 10.3.2020, out of which resignation of 6 MLA’s has been accepted by the speaker. This situation has been admitted by the Hon’ble Chief Minister in his letter dated 13.3.2020 addressed to the Hon’ble Governor and also expressed the willingness to conduct floor test in the budget session commencing on 16.3.2020. Thus, the strength of legislative assembly, as of now, is reduced to 222.

In exercise of his constitutional powers, the Hon’ble Governor, by letter dated 14.3.2016, directed the Hon’ble Chief Minister to conduct floor test in the house and prove his majority on 16.3.2020, when the budget session of the assembly begins. On 16th March 2020, the Hon’ble Chief Minister and his party leaders have publicly declined to conduct the floor test.

Arguments of the petitioner:

In the petition, the petitioner made reference to a 9 judge constitution bench in S.R. Bommai v. Union of India,[3]

“119. In this connection, it is necessary to stress that in all cases where the support to the Ministry is claimed to have been withdrawn by some legislators, the proper course for testing the strength of the Ministry is holding the test on the floor of the House. That alone is the constitutionally ordained forum for seeking openly and objectively the claims and counter-claims in that behalf…..It is possible that on some rare occasions, the floor-test may be impossible, although it is difficult to envisage such situation. Even assuming that there arises one, it should be obligatory on the Governor in such circumstances, to state in writing, the reasons for not holding the floor-test….Indeed, it was his duty to summon the Assembly and call upon the Chief Minister to establish that he enjoyed the confidence of the House.”

Another 5 judge constitution bench in Nabam Rebia & Bamang Felix v. Dy. Speaker, Arunachal Pradesh Legislative Assembly,[4] 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 floor test.

In the case of Rameshwar Prasad (VI) v. Union of India,[5] a 5 judge constitution bench of this Hon’ble Court referred to the need of following the Sarkaria Commission report that where there is a claim and counter claim regarding the majority of the government in the house, the course for the Hon’ble Governor is to order a floor test

The petitioner further made reference to decisions of supreme court in Jagdambika Pal v. Union of India,[6] Anil Kumar Jha v. Union of India[7], Chandrakant Kavlekar v. Union of India[8], this Hon’ble Court has directed for immediate conduct of floor test. Most recently, in the cases of G. Parmeshwara v. Union of India[9] and Shiv Sena v. Union of India[10], where Supreme Court had directed that floor test shall be conducted within 24 hours.

It was contended by the petitioner that the act of Hon’ble Chief Minister and Hon’ble Speaker deliberately defying the directions of the Hon’ble Governor is arbitrary and violative of fundamental rights guaranteed under Article 14, 19 of the constitution of India.

The petitioner further prayed that

“In view of the facts stated and submissions made herein above, the Petitioner respectfully pray that this Hon’ble Court may graciously be pleased to: –

a. issue a writ of mandamus or any other appropriate writ or direction, directing the Respondent No.1 to 3 to hold the floor test in the Madhya Pradesh Legislative Assembly within 12 hours of the passing of the order by this Hon’ble Court and as per directions dated 14.3.2020 and 15.3.2020 issued by the Hon’ble Governor;

b. pass any other order(s) which this Hon’ble Court may deem fit and proper in the facts and circumstances of the present case.

Key features:

  • On 17th march 2020, the Supreme Court, through the bench comprising Justices D Y Chandrachud and Hemant Gupta, issued notice on the writ petition filed by Bhartiya Janatha Party leader Shivraj Singh Chouhan.[11] The matter was listed on 18th March, 2020.
  • On 18th march 2020, during the hearing, the Court asked why the Speaker was delaying decisions on the resignations submitted by the Congress MLAs. [12]The bench also referred the recent decision[13] of the SC which held that the Speaker should ideally take a decision on disqualification within three months. The matter is listed on 19th
  • Another petition was filed in Supreme Court of India by brother of Mr. Manoj Chaudhary[14], to seek his release from illegal detention. It has been contended by the petitioner in the petition that his brother is being forcefully held captive under the clout of the state of ruling party with the aid and help of the police authorities of the state of Karnataka, against his free will and consent. The detenue is MLA from Hatpipliya in Madya Pradesh was abducted on 9th march 2020 from his residence in Dewas, Madra Pradesh. Thus petitioner filed writ petition of habeas corpus under article 32 of the constitution in order to protect the fundamental rights of the detenue.[15]

Edited by Pragash Boopal

Approved & Published – Sakshi Raje

Reference

[1]https://www.livelaw.in/pdf_upload/pdf_upload-371300.pdf

[2] . Shivraj Singh Chouhan v. State of Madhya Pradesh and others.

[3] (1994) 3 SCC 1,

[4](2016) 8 SCC 1.

[5](2006) 2 SCC 1.

[6](1999) 9 SCC 95.

[7] (2005) 3 SCC 150

[8](2017) 3 SCC 758.

[9] (2018) 16 SCC 46

[10]  (2019) 10 SCC 809,

[11]https://www.livelaw.in/top-stories/sc-issues-notice-on-bjp-leaders-plea-for-floor-test-in-madhya-pradesh-assembly-posts-tomorrow-153939

[12]https://www.livelaw.in/top-stories/mp-political-crisis-hearing-on-plea-for-floor-test-to-continue-tomorrow-154026

[13]ShrimantBalasahebPatil V. State Of Karnataka

[14]https://www.livelaw.in/pdf_upload/pdf_upload-371388.pdf

[15]https://www.livelaw.in/top-stories/mp-political-crisis-manoj-chaudhary-other-mlas-detained-illegally-says-plea-in-sc-by-congress-mlas-brother-153977

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