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Seniors exchanged unpleasantries in SC as Uttarakhand Round 2 went in favour of Centre

Uttarakhand: Beautiful; Scenes in court, not so much
Uttarakhand: Beautiful; Scenes in court, not so much

It was an exchange of barbs, rarely witnessed, in the Supreme Court’s courtrooms.

But then it was not an ordinary case, with huge stakes in the outcome, even if there are several rounds of battle ahead.

As the court No 1 was fully packed to witness the points and counter-points on the Centre’s challenge to the Uttarakhand high court’s historic decision to quash the President’s rule in the state at 3:30 pm, it was the turn of Kapil Sibal, senior counsel for the Speaker of the Uttarakhand assembly to oppose the Centre’s plea for a stay on the high court’s judgment.

The moment Sibal began to argue, the Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, retorted: “You are just the Speaker, Speaker is not a party in this.”

But Sibal went ahead despite AG’s frequent interruptions. When AG persisted telling Sibal, that he was just a Speaker, it was Sibal’s turn to return the compliment.

“So what?”, he asked, and continued to ask Justice Dipak Misra how could a Council of Ministers in Delhi decide a serious Constitutional issue concerning the passage of Appropriation bill inside the state assembly.

The high court’s failure to supply the parties a copy of the judgment, it had pronounced in the open court on 21 April, came to the rescue of both the Central Government and the ousted-restored-again ousted Government in Uttarakhand.

The AG, Rohatgi waxed eloquent on how a judgment cannot be implemented without a copy of it, and accused the ousted-restored-again ousted chief minister Harish Rawat of grabbing power, and holding cabinet meetings, without even a copy of the judgment of the high court. He told the bench that the lack of the judgment itself was a relevant factor justifying the stay on the high court’s judgment.

Sibal, on the contrary, gave an interesting twist to the lack of the judgment, by telling the bench that he was amazed that the bench was considering allowing the Centre’s appeal without a judgment. “I am sorry to say it”, he told the bench.

The AG again told Sibal: “You are the Speaker, not a party”

Sibal retorted: “Doesn’t matter.”

Abhishek Manu Singhvi, the counsel for the ousted-restored-ousted chief minister, Rawat, told the bench that between then and Monday, there is no cause of action, and therefore, a stay would be unjustified.

“Between now and Monday, I will not act as the CM”, Singhvi promised the bench, hoping to persuade it to decline the stay, sought by the Centre.

When the AG cited a previous ruling of a Constitution bench to argue that the court should invariably stay the high court judgment, being appealed against, Singhvi said: “Not at all”.

The stay would mean that the chief minister, restored by the high court, should not function, Singhvi submitted.

Although Singhvi and Sibal failed to convince the bench against staying the high court judgment, they did get a consolation, when the bench recorded the AG’s undertaking and restrained the Central Government from revoking the President’s rule till the next date of hearing, that is Wednesday, 27 April.

Picture by Yann

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