In a jolt to the Kamal Nath-led Congress government in Madhya Pradesh, the Supreme Court Thursday directed Assembly Speaker N P Prajapati to reconvene a special session tomorrow with sole agenda of conducting the floor test that must conclude by 5 pm.
Observing that the "state of uncertainty must be effectively resolved by issuing a direction for convening a floor test", the top court directed that there shall be "single agenda" before the assembly whether the Congress government continues to enjoy the confidence of the House and the voting shall take place by "show of hand".
A bench, comprising Justices D Y Chandrachud and Hemant Gupta, issued as many as eight interim directions after the conclusion of two-day hearing on cross pleas of former MP CM and senior BJP leader Shivraj Singh Chouhan and of MP Congress party.
"The session of the Madhya Pradesh Legislative Assembly which has been deferred to March 26, 2020 shall be reconvened on March 20. The meeting to be convened...shall be confined to a single agenda, namely, whether the government of the incumbent Chief Minister continues to enjoy the confidence of the House," it said.
With regard to 16 rebel Congress MLAs who are presently in Bengaluru, the top court directed the Director General of Police of Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh to ensure that there shall be no restraint or hindrance on any of them taking recourse to their rights and liberties as citizens.
"In the event that they or any of them opt to attend the session of the Legislative Assembly, arrangements for their security shall be provided by all the concerned authorities," it directed.
Taking note of Governor Lalji Tandon's letter that there was no provision of recording of division of votes in MP assembly by pressing of buttons, it said that voting shall take place "by show of hands".
"The proceedings before the legislative assembly shall be video-graphed and, if a provision exists for live telecast of the proceedings, this shall in addition be ensured," it said.
It also directed the authorities, including the Legislative Secretary, to ensure that there is "no breach of law and order" during floor test which should be conducted in a peaceful manner.
It fixed the deadline for conclusion of the floor test and said that it "shall be concluded by 5.00 pm on March 20."
The bench said senior lawyers, Kapil Sibal, A M S Singhvi and Vivek Tankha, appearing for Kamal Nath, the Speaker and the state government respectively, have assailed the communication of the Governor to convene the floor test.
It also observed that Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the governor, and senior advocates Mukul Rohatgi and Maninder Singh, apeparing for Chouhan and rebel Congress MLAs respectively, supported the communication of Governor Lalji Tandon.
"The submissions which have been urged before the court would necessitate a judgment which would take some time to be delivered," the bench said.
Earlier on March 16, Chouhan, a three-time Chief Minister of the state and nine BJP lawmakers, including the leader of opposition and BJP's Chief Whip in the Assembly, had knocked the doors of the top court just after the Speaker cited coronavirus concerns and adjourned the House till March 26 without taking the floor test apparently defying the directions of the Governor.
Chouhan had sought immediate floor test in the assembly as directed by the Governor.
The plea alleged that after the resignations of 22 Congress MLAs the government has lost the majority in the House and "it has no moral, legal, democratic or constitutional right to remain in power even for a single day".
A day after, the Madhya Pradesh Congress Legislature party (MPCLP) moved the top court alleging that its 16 MLAs have been held captive in Begaluru and had sought a direction to the Centre and the BJP-led Karnataka government to grant it access to communicate with its rebel MLAs allegedly kept at Bengaluru.
After the Speaker accepted the resignation of six Congress MLAs on Saturday, the party now has 108 legislators.
These include 16 rebel legislators who have also put in their papers but their resignations are yet to be accepted.The BJP has 107 seats in the House, which now has an effective strength of 222, with the majority mark being 112.