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Stay clear of manipulation: Supreme Court draws the line for speakers, governors

A governor must keep away from any disagreement or discontent within individual parties, and not get embroiled in political controversies, the Supreme Court held while restoring the Congress government in Arunachal Pradesh on Wednesday.

india Updated: Jul 14, 2016 09:06 IST
Supreme Court
A governor must keep away from any disagreement or discontent within individual parties, and not get embroiled in political controversies, the Supreme Court said.(Sunil Saxena/HT File Photo)

A governor must keep away from any disagreement or discontent within individual parties, and not get embroiled in political controversies, the Supreme Court held while restoring the Congress government in Arunachal Pradesh on Wednesday.

The five-judge-bench judgment on the political crisis that gripped the northeastern state last year has underscored that a governor must function within the country’s constitutional framework. The verdict also ruled that assembly speakers – when faced with a precarious situation such as a resolution for removal – must demonstrate their right to continue in office by winning majority support in the state legislature.

“When there is an expression of intention to move a resolution for removing him (the speaker), it is requisite that he stand the test and then proceed,” the verdict said. It added that the speaker’s conduct must not only be impartial, but also perceptible in its impartiality.

The ruling assumes importance in view of the unprecedented development in the Arunachal assembly, where speaker Nabam Rebia disqualified rebel Congress MLAs even before a resolution to remove him could be taken up.

Noting that the speaker was tasked with ensuring that the business of the House was carried out in a decorous and disciplined manner, the verdict said: “This functioning requires him to have unimpeachable faith in the intrinsic marrows of the Constitution, constitutionalism and ‘rule of law’.”

The judgment stated that the governor, as an executive nominee appointed through the President, can issue orders on the functioning of a legislative assembly only on the “aid and advice” of the chief minister and his council of ministers. It further ruled that as the governor was not an elected representative, he cannot have overriding authority over legislators chosen through a democratic process.

“Allowing the governor to overrule the resolve and determination of the state legislature or the state executive will not harmoniously augur with the strong democratic principles enshrined in the provisions of the Constitution,” the bench headed by justice JS Kehar said.

The bench found fault with every decision that Arunachal Pradesh governor JP Rajkhowa took, causing the fall of Nabam Tuki’s government in the state. It said a “governor must keep clear of political horse-trading and unsavoury political manipulations” during the course of his work.

The governor – in this case – had “humiliated the elected government”, it added.

Read | Parliament to polls: How SC’s Arunachal verdict will shake up politics

Besides this, the court declared Rajkhowa’s December 9, 2015 letter – which advanced the assembly session by a month and set out the manner in which the House must be conducted – as “unconstitutional”.

The bench – also comprising justices Dipak Misra, MB Lokur, NV Ramana and PC Ghose – further said it is not within the governor’s domain to interfere with the speaker’s functions, and can have no role whatsoever in the removal of the speaker or deputy speaker.

“Both the governor and the speaker have independent constitutional responsibilities,” said the verdict, which overruled an earlier SC judgment conferring greater discretionary powers to a governor.