SC restores Arunachal Pradesh back to Congress in historic verdict

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New Delhi: Much to the chagrin of the BJP, the Supreme Court on Wednesday restored the Congress government in Arunachal Pradesh and held that all decisions by the Governor that led to its dismissal were ‘violative’ of the Constitution.

The Congress was elated by the verdict as it paved the way back for its dismissed government under the chief ministership of Nabam Tuki. Congress chief Sonia Gandhi said of the verdict: “Those who have trampled upon constitutional propriety and democratic norms have been defeated.”

The court also held that all steps and decisions taken by the Arunachal Pradesh Legislative Assembly following the Governor’s order of December 9, 2015 – after Tuki’s government was dismissed — were unsustainable.

The BJP, which was supporting the new government from outside, sought to deflect criticism by reiterating that the crisis in Arunachal was created by the Congress’ internal squabbling.

This is the second major blow for the Centre from the Supreme Court. In May, the apex court had ordered a fresh floor test in the Uttarakhand Assembly that led to the return of the Congress government headed by Harish Rawat.

In December last year, a rebellion in Congress ranks precipitated a political crisis in the state, after 21 of its 47 MLAs — up in arms against then Chief Minister Nabam Tuki — joined hands with 11 BJP members and two Independents to ‘impeach’ then Assembly Speaker Nabam Rebia at a makeshift venue. Rebia had termed the move “illegal and unconstitutional”.

The Union Cabinet then recommended President’s Rule in February and the President soon gave his assent to the proposal. After a brief period of President’s Rule in the state, dissident leader Kalikho Pul was formally sworn-in as the chief minister – with the blessings of the BJP.

Today’s unanimous judgement by a five-judge bench, headed by Justice J S Khehar, turned back the clock to December 15, 2015 just before the present government was formed and said all decisions taken in an Assembly session thereafter were unsustainable.

Justice Khehar said the order of Governor Jyoti Prasad Rajkhowa dated December 9, 2015, by which he had brought forward the Legislative Assembly from January 14, 2016, to December 16, 2015, was violative of Article 163 read with Article 174 of the Constitution.

“Secondly, the message of Governor directing the manner of conducting the proceedings of the sixth session of the Legislative Assembly from December 16-18-2015, is violative of Article 163 read with Article 175 of the Constitution and as such is liable to be quashed and the same is quashed,” the bench said.

Justices Dipak Misra and Madan B Lokur read a separate and concurrent judgement stating the conduct of the Governor should not only be impartial but should appear to be perceptibly impartial.

Nabam Tuki called the verdict “historic”, one that had protected democracy and ensured justice.

The Nabam Tuki-led government was dismissed following days of turmoil after 21 of the 47 Congress MLAs rebelled against the chief minister. Arunachal Pradesh was placed under President’s Rule on January 26.

Just before the apex court had reserved its verdict on February 20 this year, rebel Congress leader Kalikho Pul was sworn in as Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh with the support of 18 dissident Congress MLAs and two independents and 11 BJP MLAs who gave outside support in the 60-member Assembly.

 

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