Recently, the Congress party led Government in Madhya Pradesh resigned after being told by the Supreme Court to face a floor test to end the political uncertainty in the state.
● According to Article 75 (3) of Indian Constitution, The Council of Ministers shall be collectively responsible to the House of the People.
● Similarly, according to Article 164 (2), The Council of Ministers shall be collectively responsible to the Legislative Assembly of the State.
● The Council of Minister should enjoy support of a simple majority (one more than fifty percent of members present and voting) of the lower house to prove that it enjoys confidence of the house. In case of tie, the speaker can also cast his vote.
Floor test and its origin in India
→ Floor test is the conclusive proof of numbers in the House. It is primarily taken to know whether the executive enjoys the confidence of the legislature (lower house).
→ It is a constitutional mechanism under which a Chief Minister appointed by the Governor can be asked to prove majority on the floor of the Legislative Assembly of the state.
→ The Supreme Court’s Constitution Bench judgment of 1994 in the S.R. Bommaicase introduced the concept of floor tests. The Constitution Bench referred to Article 164 (2) which mandates that the “Council of Ministers shall be collectively responsible to the Legislative Assembly of the State”.
→ The Bench interpreted that the ultimate test of majority is not held in the Raj Bhavan but on the floor of the House.
→ The Chief Minister has to resign if they fail to prove their majority in the house. This happens both in the parliament and the state legislative assemblies.
→ Recently, floor tests have been ordered in Karnataka (2019), Maharashtra (2019) and now in Madhya Pradesh.
Composite floor test
→ It necessitated when more than one person stakes the claim to form the government and the majority is not clear.
→ Governor may call a special session to assess who has the majority.
→ On February 24, 1998, the Supreme Court ordered a composite floor test to be held within 48 hours in the state Assembly to determine who had the majority.
Advantages of a quick floor test
✔ Recent judgements of the Supreme Court in Karnataka, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh case shows that SC favours quick floor tests in times of uncertainty over majority.
✔ Delay in floor tests increases the risk of horse-trading and corruption.
✔ It helps to overcome political and legislative deadlock which can hold up important administrative and legislative business.
S R Bommai case
It put an end to the arbitrary dismissal of State governments under Article 356 by spellingout restrictions.
The power of the President to dismiss a State government is not absolute.
The President should exercise the power only after his proclamation (imposing his/her rule) is approved by both Houses of Parliament.
Till then the President can only suspend the Legislative Assembly by suspending the provisions of the Constitution relating to the Legislative Assembly.
▪ The test of majority of the government should be done on the floor of the Assembly and is not subject to the Governor’s opinion.
▪ A Presidential Proclamation under Article 356 is subject to judicial review.
▪ Application of Article 356 is justified only when there is a breakdown of constitutional machinery and not administrative machinery.
Floor test is a transparent and constitutional mechanism to ensure that the ministry of the day enjoys confidence of the House. In times of uncertainty it restores trust of people in their elected Government. As the Supreme Court has ruled time and again, quick floor tests will reduce change of horse trading and corruption in government formation.
The ministry (in both center and state) stays in office as long as it enjoys confidence of the majority of the members of the Lok Sabha or Legislative assembly as the case may be.
The opposition parties (or any member) can move a motion expressing want of confidence (no confidence) in the Council of Ministers.
It need not state the reasons for its adoption in the Lok Sabha.
In Lok Sabha, it needs the support of 50 members to be admitted.
If it is passed in the lower house, the council of ministers must resign from office.
PEPPER IT WITH
Article 75, Article 164, Absolute, special, simple and effective majority