How SC’s Hearing Paved the Way for Parrikar-Led BJP Govt in Goa

“You could’ve demolished the opponent’s case in 30 seconds by showing one person who’s not in their support”

In a special hearing that interrupted its Holi break, a three-judge Supreme Court bench, headed by Chief Justice of India JS Khehar, refused to stay the swearing-in ceremony of Manohar Parrikar, subject to a floor test by 16 March at 11 am.

Goa Congress leader Chandrakant Kavlekar had on Monday filed a petition that challenged Governor Mridula Sinha’s decision to invite the BJP to form the next government.

Congress’ Arguments

1. Constitutional Convention Ignored
The Governor failed to adhere to the constitutional convention of inviting the single largest party to form the government.

The Congress won 17 of the 40 assembly seats in Goa. Instead, the Governor invited the BJP, which won 13 seats, and even scheduled to administer the oath of office to an unelected Chief Minister (Manohar Parrikar) and his Cabinet.

Although the Governor is not bound by a Constitutional provision to invite or consult the single largest party, the convention is followed to appear bipartisan.

2. Post-Poll Alliance Undermines Mandate of the People
The BJP was able to claim majority through “late night political maneuvering by the powers that be to defeat the mandate of the people and somehow grab power by misusing the office of the Governor.”

The BJP claimed majority with support from three MLAs from the Goa Forward Party, three from the Maharashtravadi Gomantak Party, and two independent MLAs. That this was a post-poll alliance is also a point of contention, according to the Congress.

3. Governor Acted Arbitrarily
The decision of the Governor is completely tainted with arbitrariness, malafide, partisanship and has been taken in an extremely hasty manner on the night of 12 March to pre-empt at staking of claim by a single largest party.

BJP’s Counter-Arguments

1. Letter of Support
Governor Mridula Sinha’s counsel Harish Salve submitted the letter from the BJP, claiming support from three MLAs of the Goa Forward Party, three from the Maharashtravadi Gomantak Party, and two independents, which was taken on record by the Supreme Court.

Harish Salve told the Court that the Governor was convinced that the BJP was in a position to form the government.

The Congress, on the other hand, failed to submit any affidavits indicating any outside support from the smaller parties or independent candidates.

CJI JS Khehar to Congress counsel Abhishek Manu Singhvi.You should have asked the Governor what nonsense she is doing. Here, we have the numbers. You should have sat on dharna. You did nothing. 

2. Immediate Floor Test
The Governor had announced that the floor test would take place within 15 days. When Harish Salve told the Court that the floor test would take place “as soon as possible”, CJI Khehar responded – “No you will have a floor test forthwith, not as soon as possible.”

3. Swearing-In Ceremony
The BJP argued that it was not opposed to a floor test, but the swearing-in must go on as scheduled at 5 pm on Tuesday. The Supreme Court refused to stay the swearing-in ceremony of Manohar Parrikar and told the Congress counsel – “you could have finished the case in 30 seconds by showing they don’t have the numbers.”

SC Verdict

The bench also told the counsels – “If you are sincere, you two will get together to find a pro tem Speaker to conduct the Floor Test.”

Both counsels – Abhishek Manu Singhvi and Harish Salve agreed that the senior most member of the house ought to be appointed as the pro tem speaker.

The Court disposed the Congress petition with the order stating:

We were satisfied during the course of the hearing that the sensitive and contentious issues raised by the petitioner can be resolved by simple directions requiring holding of a floor test at the earliest. All prerequisite formalities for the floor test to be completed by 15 March 2017, including formalities required to be completed by the Election Commission. We request the Governor to ensure that the floor test is held at 11 am on 16 March.