Advocate general defends voice vote in Maharashtra Assembly

The BJP Government defended before the Bombay High Court on Tuesday the decision of the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly to go in for a voice vote instead of a head-count (division of votes) over the trust motion.

“The first option for the Speaker is voice vote followed by a division of votes... if majority is proved by a voice vote then there is no need to go for a head count,” argued advocate general Sunil Manohar, replying to petitions challenging validity of the trust vote won by the government. Voice vote is a rule and division of votes is an exception, Manohar said, adding that all the motions are generally decided by a voice vote.

Even the rules of the legislature prescribe that voice vote is the norm, the advocate general submitted. Congress MLA Naseem Khan and two others have filed petitions challenging the Speaker’s decision to allow voice vote on Devendra Fadnavis-led government’s trust motion on November 12.

Senior counsel Srihari Aney, who also appeared for the government, backed Manohar’s contention, saying that the BJP government had proved that it had a majority through the voice vote. Those MLAs who were opposed to the trust motion could have moved a no confidence motion, but that was not done, he said.

Speaker Haribhau Bagade’s decision to opt for a voice vote was correct, Aney said, adding that the Speaker functioned like a court in the Legislative Assembly. Khan’s lawyer T R Andhyarujina, a senior counsel and former solicitor general, cited Supreme Court’s judgements to show that the High Court has the jurisdiction to hear petitions challenging the Speaker’s decisions on trust motions.

Andhyarujina said the High Court can interfere in the cases where fundamental constitutional principles are violated. The Speaker did not act fairly by opting for a voice vote as the government did not have the numbers to prove its majority, he said. Bagade’s action subverted the law laid down by the Supreme Court that a floor test is mandatory in such situations, said Andhyarujina.

He demanded the High Court set aside the voice vote obtained by the state government. The BJP and its allies have 122 MLAs in the 288-member Assembly. The arguments will continue today.

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