Governor of Punjab, Banwarilal Purohit withdrew an order on September 21, for a special session of the State Assembly called for a confidence motion. But why did he change his mind a day after his September 20 order? He stated that there were no legal provisions for it. But in recent cases like that in Delhi Assembly and the Jharkhand Assembly, both called and won the trust vote for their governments on September 1 and September 5, respectively.
The decision by the Punjab governor, addressed to the Secretary of Punjab Vidhan Sabha, Surinder Pal, was divided into three points. One mentioned how the leader of the opposition, Congress’ Partap Singh Bajwa, Congress MLA Sukhpal Singh Khaira and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) State President, MLA Ashwani Sharma had stated a day after the Governor’s decision, that “there was no legal provision to convene a Special session to move ‘confidence motion’ only in favour of the state government.”
Looking at ‘The Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business’ in the Punjab Assembly, it does not have any section on a Special session. It does however have a section on ‘no-confidence motion’, with sub-rule (2) which says that if the Speaker (in this case Kultar Singh Sandhwan) is of the opinion that the motion is in order, he shall read the motion to the Vidhan Sabha (Assembly) and shall request those members who are in favour of leave being granted, to rise in their places.
In order for the Speaker to declare that leave is granted and that the motion will be taken on that day, at least one-fifth of the House’s members must rise in support of it.
Here too a clause being, that not more than ten days from the day on which the leave is asked, will the day be appointed. In case there are less than the requisite number of members who rise, the Speaker shall inform the member that he has not left the Vidhan Sabha (Assembly).
In this case, the Punjab government cabinet had approved the recommendation for the summoning of a special session of the House, for September 22, to be sent to the Governor under Article 174 (1) of the Constitution. This section says that “the Governor shall from time to time summon the House or each House of the Legislature of the State to meet at such time and place as he thinks fit, but six months shall not intervene between its last sitting in one session and the date appointed for its first sitting in the next session”.
There is no mention of a no-confidence or of confidence motion, but simply that the Governor “shall from time to time summon the house”.
Moving on, the second point made in the letter of withdrawal says the matter was “examined and a legal opinion was sought from Satya Pal Jain, Additional Solicitor general of India.” Jain, the letter says in his legal opinion said there was “no specific provision regarding summoning of the Assembly for considering the ‘confidence motion’ only, in the Punjab Vidhan Sabha rules of procedure and conduct of business.”
And the last point is on the decision to withdraw.
Interestingly, the Aam Aadmi Party-led Punjab government which has accused the BJP of trying to topple its government through “Operation Lotus”, had claimed the same in Delhi where it leads the Union Territory. On September 1, it successfully carried out a confidence motion tabled by the Chief Minister, Arvind Kejriwal. There were 58 votes in support of the motion and no votes against the motion. BJP MLAs had abstained from the proceedings in the Assembly where 62 are AAP MLAs and eight are BJPs and nil from the Congress.
The AAP in the last week of August had said that four of its Delhi MLAs, namely Ajay Dutt, Sanjeev Jha, Somnath Bharati and Kuldeep Kumar, had been approached by the BJP to switch sides – and an offer of Rs 20 crore each – or else, face “false cases, the CBI and the ED”. In Punjab, the AAP had accused BJP leaders and agents of approaching at least 10 MLAs and offering Rs 25 crores each to quit and join the BJP.
Now it looks like AAP Punjab has accepted the defeat to call for a trust vote, with the State cabinet deciding to summon the Assembly on September 27 for other matters. Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann has said issues like electricity and stubble burning would be discussed in the Assembly session.