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Mainstream, VOL LIV No 18, New Delhi, April 23, 2016

HC’s Uttarakhand Verdict, Drought Scene

Monday 25 April 2016, by SC


As we go to press, the most significant development today has been the judgment of the Uttarakhaand High Court setting aside the Centre’s decision to impose President’s Rule in the State. Reacting to this ruling the Opposition parties have unequivocally welcomed the Court order with the CPI-M General Secretary Sitaram Yechury aptly describing it as a “slap” on the face of subverters of the Constitution, that is, those who were behind the extension of the Centre’s jurisdiction in the State. Whatever the stalwarts of the Union Government may say in justification of the Centre’s action, the irrefutable fact is that the judiciary has given a fitting rebuff to the Narendra Modi Government’s authoritarian proclivities as manifest in its move in Uttarakhand and that rebuff has resulted in a definite setback to the Centre’s plans in the days ahead.

However, the Centre is not sitting idle. It has already decided to move the Supreme Court in the matter (the decision to that effect was taken at the residence of BJP President Amit Shah who is fast emerging as a new extra-constitutional authority a la Sanjay Gandhi in the Emergency days). It expects the Apex Court to give it some relief so that its embarrassment due to the HC order is somewhat lessened as a consequence. The High Court had yesterday made it clear that the President’s decision to suspend the State Assembly of Uttarakhand was open to “judicial review” as even the highest in the land could go “horribly wrong”; in a veiled warning to the Centre the HC’s two-judge Bench also “hoped” that the government would not “provoke” the Court by revoking President’s Rule till a verdict was delivered on the petition challenging its imposition. The last observation came in response to the apprehension voiced by the counsel for the CM, Harish Rawat, that the Centre could revoke President’s Rule before the Court verdict in order to ensure that the BJP is called to form a new government in the State.

The High Court was also quite firm in its view that floor test was the only way to prove a government’s majority (as spelt out in the Bommal judgment) and did not find any reason for imposing President’s Rule in the State when the date for the floor test had already been announced. It further set April 29 as the date for a new floor test to be sure that the Congress CM enjoyed adequate majority to continue heading the State Government.

Meanwhile the heat wave being experienced in large parts of the country has led to drought conditions in several States where acute water scarcity has deeply affected the people in general and those in the lower rungs of the society in particular. This is specially true for Maharashtra where the water crisis has aggravated of late. And yet the persons in the higher echelons are hardly bothered—hence water was generously used for the pitches of the proposed IPL matches in Mumbai in spite of the crisis in this regard assuming a huge dimension before the Court intervened and decided against holding the IPL matches in that city. Side by side one was also witness to the insensitivity of the political class towards farmers and the poor populace with water tankers being used to sprinkle the road for Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah’s dust-free ride while visiting the drought-affected areas of the State’s Bagalkot district. And then one found Pankaja Munde, Maharashtra’s guardian Minister of Latur and Beed, clicking selfies while on an official tour to review drought-related work in Latur; immediately Opposition parties in the State charged her with not holding any review meeting during the previous year notwithstanding evidence of drought-like situation in the region for months.

This only brings into focus once again the gulf between political leaders and the hapless people suffering the effects of such natural calamities like drought.

April 21 S.C.

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