The Supreme Court restored the Congress government in Arunachal Pradesh on Wednesday, scrapping all decisions by the governor that precipitated the fall of the previous administration.
A five-judge bench headed by justice JS Kehar quashed governor JP Rajkhowa’s decision to advance the legislative assembly session by a month last year.
“This order to prepone the assembly violates the constitution,” the bench said.
It also quashed the governor’s December 9, 2015 message directing the manner in which the assembly proceedings had to be conducted from December 16 to 18.
“All decisions taken by the Arunachal Pradesh assembly after December 9 are unsustainable and set aside,” held the bench in a unanimous judgment.
The Centre’s counsel refused to comment but sources said the Union government will likely file a review petition in the top court.
The decision is a huge embarrassment for the BJP-ruled Union government that ordered President’s Rule in the state, following which Congress rebels formed the government with support from the saffron party.
But the Supreme Court restored the state assembly to its state before December 9 when the new session was called – which means the dismissal of the Congress government, President’s Rule and the new administration have all been declared invalid.
This is the second time in recent months that the BJP has faced a setback over imposing President’s Rule.
Earlier this year, it clamped central rule in Uttarakhand after nine Congress MLAs rebelled against chief minister Harish Rawat, triggering a prolonged court battle. But the courts ruled in favour of the Congress and Rawat won a crucial floor vote.
With the Supreme Court restoring the previous Congress government in Arunachal Pradesh, the verdict is likely to set in motion the following chain of events:
- Tripura Governor Tathagata Roy, sworn in as acting Governor of AP during the leave of absence of incumbent Governor Jyoti Prasad Rajkhowa, will be tasked with implementing SC’s verdict.
- SC verdict reinstates CM Nabam Tuki and old Speaker Nabam Rebia.
- Present CM Kalikho Pul and Assembly Speaker Wangki Lowang will have to step down immediately.
- If there is demand, Speaker Rebia can summon special assembly session for floor test.
- CM Kalikho Pul can file review petition at SC, but chances of success in review petition are very rare as the case goes before the same Bench which decided the case previously.
- In the floor test, Congress, with only 15 MLAs, is likely to lose and Pul may stake claim for the CM’s post again.
- If political crisis continues, President’s Rule can be imposed after keeping the assembly in suspended animation for up to a year.
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for speaker Nabam Rebia, hailed the verdict. “This is historic. Only the judiciary can protect values of the constitution and I salute the judiciary for this judgment,” said Sibal, who is also a Congress Rajya Sabha MP.
Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal said the verdict was a “tight slap” on Modi government. “SC judgment yet another tight slap on dictatorial Modi govt. Hope Modi ji wud learn n now stop interfering in democratically elected govts (sic),” Kejriwal tweeted.
Arunachal Pradesh plunged into political crisis in November after 21 of the Congress’ 47 legislators rebelled against chief minister Nabam Tuki. The Congress was reduced to 26 in the 60-member assembly.
The Centre imposed President’s rule on January 26. The leader of the Congress dissidents’ faction, Kalikho Pul, was sworn in as chief minister on February 19.Twenty rebel Congress legislators and 11 BJP MLAs supported him.