Admitting that it had committed a “mistake” by issuing a notice to the Arunachal Pradesh governor, a five-judge constitution bench of the Supreme Court recalled the order on Monday holding that governors and the President enjoy certain constitutional immunity.
The bench is hearing a batch of petitions challenging the imposition of President’s rule in the state and the governor’s decision to convene the assembly without the advice of the council of ministers. The bench headed by justice JS Khehar ordered the Centre to furnish by Friday crucial documents seized from former chief minister Nabam Tuki’s office to him. It, however, did not issue any directions on Tuki’s plea to order restoration of the pre-President’s rule situation in the state.
This is the second instance in less than a week where the top court has recalled an order terming it a mistake. Last week, a bench headed by justice Ranjan Gogoi took back its direction appointing former Allahabad High Court judge Virendra Singh as Uttar Pradesh’s Lokayukta and ordered a fresh appointment.
The bench acknowledged attorney general Mukul Rohatgi’s submission that no notice could be issued either to the governor or the President under Article 361 of the Constitution, which gives immunity to them. They are not answerable to the court for acts done in discharge of their duties.
“It is our mistake. If we make a mistake, we can correct it. We have issued a notice. We will recall it. If you (the governor on your own) want to appear, there is no difficulty. If we have made a mistake we will correct it,” the bench observed while recalling its order.
While the bench recalled its notice, it said the governor was at liberty to file his response if he desired to do so on his own.
Immediately after the recall order, senior advocates Fali Nariman, Kapil Sibal and Rajeev Dhawan urged the bench to restore the status before President’s rule was imposed, a plea the court declined. The three assailed the governor’s recommendation to bring the state under central rule.
“He has effectively taken over the entire administration by dismissing the chief minister and the council of ministers, making it impossible for restoration of status quo. More importantly, the chief minister’s office was sealed, his personal and official computers, laptops, documents and important files have been taken over by the governor’s office,” Nariman said.
At this, justice Khehar said justice and fair play demanded that the government must provide copies of the seized material to the chief minister and other affected persons so that they could defend their case effectively.