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BUTA GUILTY

IN THE sharpest-ever criticism of a high constitutional functionary, the Supreme Court on Tuesday said Bihar Governor Buta Singh's recommendation of the dissolution of the former state assembly was "hasty", "drastic" and "extreme".

india Updated: Jan 25, 2006 11:56 IST

And cabinet held responsible for not verifying his report

IN THE sharpest-ever criticism of a high constitutional functionary, the Supreme Court on Tuesday said Bihar Governor Buta Singh's recommendation of the dissolution of the former state assembly was "hasty", "drastic" and "extreme".

Following the Supreme Court verdict, the opposition and the government's own Left allies demanded Buta Singh's resignation. But Buta Singh ruled out his resignation. Asked whether he would quit his post over the court strictures against him, he said, "I'm going to take salute in Patna on January 26." The government has suoght a day’s time to study the order.

In a 3:2 verdict, a five-judge bench held that the governor's action was tainted by "mala fides" and was intended to "prevent a particular political party" -- the JD(U)-BJP combine led by Nitish Kumar -- "from staking claim to form a government".

"The drastic and extreme action under Article 356 cannot be justified on the mere… whims and fancies of the governor," said a majority of the judges -- Chief Justice of India Y.K. Sabharwal and justices B.N. Aggarwal and Ashok Bhan -- while substantiating its earlier order of October 7, striking down the May 23 presidential proclamation dissolving the House.

Nitish Kumar has since taken over as the Bihar chief minister after fresh polls were held. The court had refused to restore the earlier assembly, saying much had taken place since the dissolution, including the EC announcing fresh polls. The majority also observed that the council of ministers should have verified the governor's report before acting on it.

"In the facts and circumstances of the case, the governor may be the main player but the council of ministers should have verified facts stated in the report before hurriedly accepting it as the gospel truth… Courts cannot remain a silent spectator to such subversion," said the court.

"Clearly, the governor misled the council of ministers which led to aid and advise being given by the council of ministers to the president leading to the issue of the presidential proclamation."

First Published: Jan 25, 2006 11:56 IST