President not bound to ask government to prove majority: Experts

July 9th, 2008 - 5:58 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Pratibha Patil
By Manish Chand
New Delhi, July 9 (IANS) Even as the Left Wednesday formally withdrew support to the ruling coalition, the president need not necessarily ask the government to prove its majority in parliament, but any party or MP can bring the vote of no-confidence, say top constitution experts. “The president can well decide that there is no need for a confidence vote, specially after the Samajwadi Party, with 39 MPs, has already pledged its support. But it will be open to the president to ask the opposition to move a vote of no-confidence,” K.K. Venugopal, a top constitutional expert, told IANS.

“The Samajwadi Party has already pledged support. She (President Pratibha Patil) need not make an exact count of MPs supporting the government. If she is satisfied that the government has the support of a majority in the house, she need not necessarily ask the government to move a confidence motion,” Venugopal said.

Agrees Shanti Bushan, a former law minister and senior Supreme Court advocate: “According to the constitution, the president is not even required to make up her mind on how many MPs are supporting the government.”

President Patil can tell the Left parties or any MP who thinks the government has lost confidence of the house that if they think so it’s up to them to bring a no-trust vote in the house, Bhushan said.

“The rules of parliament provide for a solution in such a scenario. If any individual MP or party wants to bring a no-trust vote, they are free to so within established parliamentary procedures.

“If the Congress itself wants to bring a vote of confidence to tell the world that they have the support of the majority, especially when they are moving ahead with a major international agreement like the India-US nuclear deal, then the president will have no objection to that,” Bhushan stressed.

The Manmohan Singh government has said categorically that it will go ahead with the IAEA safeguards agreement only after the trust vote, signalling that it was ready to face a trust vote in parliament.

According to reliable sources, the government is planning to convene a special session of parliament July 21-22 to face a trust vote as they want to submit the safeguards pact for ratification to the IAEA board when it meets in Vienna July 28.

The Left parties Wednesday approached President Pratibha Patil with their letter withdrawing support to the UPA government and asked the government to prove its majority in the house.

“It will be up to the president to do so, but if she decides not to then either the Left or an opposition party like BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) can move a trust vote,” Bhushan stressed.

While nothing in the constitution makes it mandatory on part of the president to ask a sitting government to prove its majority on the floor of the house, precedent shows that the failure to do so may expose her to charges of partisan behaviour.

In 1999, then president K.R. Narayanan directed the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government to seek a vote on a motion of confidence after the withdrawal of AIADMK from his government.

The government is trying to garner the support of at least 272 MPs so that it can win the trust vote and conclude the India-US civilian nuclear deal that triggered its break-up with the Left parties. Even if it does not have 272 MPs on its side, the Manmohan Singh government can survive as a minority provided it wins confidence vote due to abstention by some MPs.

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