Alva added that she is surprised and pained that senior leaders, including a former Chief Minister, “should have got themselves tied up in knots in such a manner.”

Playing with the Constitution is playing with fire Former Uttarakhand Governor Margaret AlvaTwitter
news Uttarakhand Crisis Saturday, April 23, 2016 - 09:55

The last word has not yet been said on the Uttarakhand political crisis which came to a boil last March with the revolt of 9 Congress MLAs, including former Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna, against the Harish Rawat government. The Supreme Court granted, on Friday, a stay untilApril 27 of the verdict of the Uttarakhand High Court quashing imposition of President’s Rule.

Ahead of the Supreme Court verdict issuing the stay, The News Minute spoke to Margaret Alva, former Governor of Uttarakhand from 2009 to 2012 (and its first female Governor), about her reading of the developing situation.

Alva welcomed the verdict delivered by the Uttarakhand High Court and said that as a former Governor, she is familiar with the careful balancing of numbers that any government has to perform in the state. “Toppling a government by manipulating numbers is a travesty of the Constitution.” 

She noted that it has been repeatedly debated and agreed upon that majorities have to be proved on the floor of the House, and not in the Raj Bhawans (homes of Governors) or elsewhere. Her view is unequivocal. The imposition of President's Rule a day before the floor test "was not only unconstitutional, but also unethical." 

Alva, who was Governor of Rajasthan from 2012 to 2014 was the only UPA appointee to complete her tenure under the NDA regime. After the change of government at the centre, she was also given additional charge of Goa and Gujarat as the new government settled in.

On the HC decision calling into question the decision of the President, Alva chose not to comment on the President’s actions, since he is a constitutional authority. However, she affirmed, “This is a landmark judgement, and a brave attempt by the High Court to restore faith in the democratic system.”

Drawing attention to the court’s emphasis on the power of judicial review of the President’s decision, Alva observed that it is important today to re-emphasize the fact that no one is above the Constitution and “those who play with the Constitution and its provisions are playing with fire and will get their fingers burnt.”

As for Subramaniam Swamy’s claims that the case was lost by the Central Government only because of bad arguments by the Attorney General and the Solicitor General, Alva, without directly commenting on his claims said, “He (Swamy) thinks he knows better than everyone else.”

Referring to the key premise of the SR Bommai judgement, that all decisions on questions of legislative majorities or loss of majorities should be taken only on the floor of the house, Alva said that while this may have been ignored on some occasions, the pendulum is now swinging back in that direction.  “A democratic government should only be unseated by a democratic process, which is a vote on the floor of the House”. Failing this, she cautioned, decisions become the discretion of individuals.

Alva added that she is surprised and pained that senior leaders, including a former Chief Minister, “should have got themselves tied up in knots in such a manner.” She said that as senior leaders they should have been able to know the consequences of their actions, and for them to blame somebody else and to claim absolutely clean consciences for themselves is not acceptable. “They have betrayed the party, they have betrayed the voters, and they have betrayed their duties as elected representatives,” she said. 

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