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FLOOR TEST IS GOVERNOR’S DISCRETION

Why in news?

A Governor can call for a floor test any time he objectively feels a government in power has lost the confidence of the House and is on shaky ground, the Supreme Court held in its judgement on 13th March 2020.

Highlights of the Judgement

  • A Governor can call for a trust vote if he has arrived at a prima facie opinion, based on objective material, that the incumbent State government has lost its majority in the Assembly.
  • The idea underlying the trust vote is to uphold the political accountability of the elected government to the State legislature.
  • In directing a trust vote, the Governor does not favour a particular political party. It is inevitable that the specific timing of a trust vote may tilt the balance towards the party possessing a majority at the time the trust vote is directed.
  • All political parties are equally at risk of losing the support of their elected legislators, just as the legislators are at risk of losing the vote of the electorate. This is how the system of parliamentary governance operates.

SC on Intention of a Trust vote Restriction on Governor

  • The intention behind a trust vote was to enable the elected representatives to determine whether the Council of Ministers commanded the confidence of the House.
  • It was the MLAs, and not the Governor, who made the ultimate call whether a government should stay in power or not.
  • A Governor’s power to call for a floor test is not restricted only before the inception of a State government immediately after elections, but would continue throughout its five-year term.

When can the Governor call for the trust vote?

  • The court clarified that the Governor’s requirement to have a trust vote does not “short-circuit” any disqualification proceedings pending before the Speaker.
  • It said a Governor need not wait for the Speaker’s decision on the resignation of rebel MLAs before calling for a trust vote in the House.
  • But Governors cannot misuse their wide powers to call for a floor test to displace elected governments for political reasons

What is a no-confidence motion?

  • A government can function only when it has majority support in the Lok Sabha.
  • The party can remain in power when it shows its strength through a floor test which is primarily taken to know whether the executive enjoys the confidence of the legislature.
  • If any member of the House feels that the government in power does not have a majority then he/she can move a no-confidence motion.
  • If the motion is accepted, then the party in power has to prove its majority in the House.
  • The member need NOT give a reason for moving the no-confidence motion.
  • According to rule 198 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of the Lok Sabha, a no-confidence motion is “a motion expressing want of confidence in the Council of Ministers.”
  • This motion can be moved when “the Member asking for leave shall, by 10.00 hours on that day give to the Secretary-General a written notice of the motion which such member proposes to move.”
  • The Speaker then, once satisfied that the motion is in order, will ask the House if the motion can be adopted.

How is the No-confidence Motion passed?

  • Those Members that support the motion will have to rise in their seats, and with a minimum of 50 Members’ approval, the motion can be moved.
  • A no-confidence motion needs a simple majority vote to pass the House (i.e., 50% of members present and voting).
  • If individuals or parties abstain from voting, those numbers will be removed from the overall strength of the House and then the majority will be taken into account.
  • If the government is not able to prove its majority in the House, then the government of the day has to resign.
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September 2022
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