#NewsBytesExplainer: Here's why governor's role assumes importance amid Maharashtra crisis
Amid a political crisis in Maharashtra, the governor's constitutional right to call for a floor test takes center stage. The governor has the authority under Article 174(2)(b) of the Constitution to dissolve the Assembly with Cabinet's assistance and recommendation. However, when the advice comes from a chief minister whose majority is in doubt, the governor can use his discretion. Here we explain more.
Why does this story matter?
- Maharashtra is currently in a political crisis after rebel Sena MLA Eknath Shinde claimed that he has 40 MLAs with him to challenge the present government.
- He was displeased with the Sena joining hands with the Congress and NCP to form the Maha Vikas Aghadi alliance in Maharashtra.
- So, the Governor's role and the floor test gain significance.
SC upheld Assembly Speaker's power to call for floor test
In 2020, the Supreme Court upheld the powers of the Assembly Speaker to call for a floor test if there is a prima-facie view that the government has lost its majority. This was pronounced while hearing the case of Shivraj Singh Chouhan & Ors versus Speaker, Madhya Pradesh Legislative Assembly & Ors. However, the speaker's role is significant when the House is in session.
Governor has residuary powers under Article 163
When the House is in session, it is the Speaker who can call for a floor test. But when the Assembly is not in session, the governor's residuary powers under Article 163 allow him to call for a floor test.
What precisely does the SC say regarding the governor's authority?
"The Governor is not denuded of the power to order a floor test where on the basis of the material available to the Governor it becomes evident that the issue as to whether the government commands the confidence of the House requires to be assessed on the basis of a floor test," the bench of justices DY Chandrachud and Hemant Gupta had said.
Similar situation in Madhya Pradesh in 2020
The governor may convene the House and ask for a floor test under Article 175(2) to demonstrate whether the administration has the numbers. The Madhya Pradesh Governor was confronted with a similar predicament when MLAs from the Jyotiraditya Scindia camp defected to the BJP and the then-Congress CM Kamal Nath urged the Governor to dissolve the Assembly. Instead, the Governor requested a floor test.
MLAs have the right to decide for themselves: SC
In its 2020 judgment, the Supreme Court examined the right of a political party to obtain "captive" MLAs. The Court emphasized that MLAs had the right to decide for themselves whether they should continue to be Members of the House when they have lost trust in the existing administration. However, it said this must be done on the House floor.
Court says practice of whisking away legislators unfortunate
"The spectacle of rival political parties whisking away their political flock to safe destinations does little credit to the state of our democratic politics," the Court said. The court termed the practice as an unfortunate reflection of the confidence that political parties hold in their own constituents. "Political bargaining, or horse-trading, as we noticed, is now an oft-repeated usage in legal precedents," it added.