A day after President Pranab Mukherjee signed the ordinance authorising expenditure in Uttarakhand, the Congress moved the Nainital High Court challenging its constitutionality.
The party, represented by Kapil Sibal, filed a writ petition before the HC's division bench comprising Chief Justice KM Joseph and Justice VK Bisht, questioning the legality of the ordinance.
Speaking to Catch, Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari said, "It is a strange situation. Currently, Uttarakhand has two budgets, one that was passed by the assembly and this one by the central government."
Terming it as an assault on the Constitution, Tewari questioned the authority "under which the central government become the arbiter of proceedings of a legislative assembly".
Another party spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala described the ordinance as a "sinister conspiracy". "The Uttarakhand assembly had constitutionally passed the Appropriation Bill reflecting the people's aspirations. This ordinance is nothing but Narendra Modi government's sinister conspiracy to obstruct and annul implementation of public welfare schemes and programmes, funds for which were allotted in the budget."
He added, "The Congress party condemns the legislative dishonesty of the BJP government to deny genuine developmental aspirations of the people of Uttarakhand by first proroguing Parliament and then following the ordinance route to perpetuate illegalities."
The Union cabinet, at a meeting chaired by Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Thursday, had decided to issue the ordinance claiming the Appropriation Bill was not passed by the assembly on 18 March. And since the bill had not been passed, the cabinet reasoned, Uttarakhand could not withdrawal money from the Consolidated Fund. Hence, the need for the ordinance.
The ordinance allows withdrawal of Rs 13,642.43 crore for expenditure on services over the current fiscal. "Parliament is not in session and President is satisfied that circumstances exist which rendered it necessary for him to take immediate action for the purpose of timely compliance of financial businesses of the state of Uttarakhand," read the official notification.
The Congress expects to get a stay on the ordinance from the high court, which, if granted, could trigger a financial crisis in the state. "In case of a stay, there could be a United States-like situation of a government shutdown which will be too bad for the state. It is an unconstitutional decision," said Tewari.
In a related development, the high court put off hearing on the challenge to the disqualification of nine rebel Congress legislators from the assembly till 11 April. This is the second time this hearing has been postponed by the single-judge bench of UC Dhyani.
Meanwhile, a senior Congress leader, who happens to be a lawyer, told Catch they are expecting a favourable order on the writ petition filed by the ousted chief minister Harish Rawat challenging the imposition of President's Rule. He claimed the court has questioned the Attorney General on why the Modi government had hurriedly invoked Article 356 when Governor KK Paul had asked for a floor test the next day. The leader claimed the court also raised several other objections on the imposition of President's Rule "to which the AG had no answer".