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SC restores Cong government in Arunachal Pradesh

Supreme Court

New Delhi : In a major setback to BJP and the government headed by it at the Centre, the Supreme Court today ordered restoration of the Congress government in Arunachal Pradesh by quashing all decisions of the Governor that had precipitated its fall in January, holding them “violative” of the Constitution.

The apex court’s verdict came as a shot in the arm for the Congress, paving the way for the return of its dismissed government headed by Nabam Tuki.

The landmark unanimous judgement by a five-judge bench set aside among other things Governor Jyoti Prasad Rajkhowa’s message directing the preponing of the session and the manner of holding the proceedings of sixth session of the Assembly scheduled from January 14, 2016, to December 16-18, 2015.

The constitution bench, headed by Justice J S Khehar, ordered that status quo ante as prevailed on December 15, 2015 be restored in Arunachal Pradesh Assembly.

This is the second major blow for the Centre from the Supreme Court which had only in May ordered a fresh floor test in Uttarakhand Assembly that led to the return of the Congress government headed by Harish Rawat and lifting of the President’s Rule imposed on March 27.

Reading out the operative portions of the main judgement, Justice Khehar said the order of the Governor dated December 9, 2015, preponing the session of Legislative Assembly from January 14, 2016, to December 16, 2015, is violative of Article 163 read with Article 174 of the Constitution and as such is liable to be quashed and the same is quashed.

“Secondly, the message of governor directing the manner of conducting the proceedings of the sixth session of Legislative Assembly of Arunachal Pradesh 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.

Thirdly, the bench said “all steps and decisions taken by the Legislative Assembly of Arunachal Pradesh in pursuant to Governor’s order of December 9, 2015, are unsustainable and liable to be set aside and as such it is set aside.”

Finally, the bench observed, “In view of the decision from one to three, status quo ante as it prevailed on December 15, 2015, is ordered to be restored.”

Justices Dipak Misra and Madan B Lokur read a separate and concurrent judgement stating that they do not disagree with the view of Justice Khehar but added that the conduct of the Governor should not only be impartial but should appear to be perceptibly impartial.

The court today held that all steps and decisions taken by Arunachal Pradesh Legislative Assembly in pursuance to the Governor’s order of December 9, 2015, are unsustainable.

Welcoming the verdict, Tuki said it was “historic” and that it has protected democracy and ensured justice.

“The Supreme Court verdict today is a historic. It paves way to protect healthy democracy in the country,” Tuki, who was the Chief Minister of Arunachal before his government was brought down, said.

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.

The bench had earlier segregated two other sets of petitions which were filed against the subsequent promulgation of President’s Rule in the state and its revocation thereafter, which had led to formation of a new government.

It had fixed these pleas for hearing after pronouncement of verdict on petitions dealing with Governor’s discretionary powers in advancing the assembly session and setting the agenda of the House.

On the day the verdict was reserved in February, the bench had refused to pass an interim order on a fervent plea of Congress against the “illegal” swearing-in of Pul-led government and had said that it can “set the clock back” if the Governor’s actions are found unconstitutional.

Congress had suffered a jolt when 21 of its lawmakers rebelled. Eleven BJP MLAs backed the rebels in the bid to upstage the government. Later, 14 rebel Congress MLAs were disqualified.

Hours after the Union Cabinet had decided to recommend revocation of President’s Rule in Arunachal Pradesh, the apex court had on February 17 ordered maintenance of status quo in the politically fragile state till it examined judicial and assembly records on disqualification of the 14 rebel Congress MLAs by former Speaker Nabam Rebia.

On February 16, the court had also refused to pass an interim order on a plea of Congress leaders that Rajkhowa be restrained from swearing in a new government in Arunachal Pradesh.

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