Centre's hasty move on Arunachal

The Central government has unfortunately ignored President Pranab Mukherjee’s reservations in imposing Central rule in Arunachal Pradesh. It has also refused to wait for the Supreme Court’s decision on issues related to the political crisis in the state. These issues range from the ‘impeachment’ of the speaker by a group of legislators, the convening of the Assembly session and the passage of a no-confidence motion against Chief Minister Nabam Tuki in a hotel and the state governor’s decision to advance the date of the House session and to summon the legislature on his own. The court had set up a Constitution bench to hear arguments in the case and so, the government’s hasty action in the matter was inappropriate. The government’s recommendation cited breakdown of the Constitutional machinery as the ground for imposition of Central rule. This is not convincing. The decision seems to have been prompted more by political considerations.

A Congress government was in power in the state. It probably lost its majority support after a rebellion by a group of Congress MLAs, who made common cause with the BJP in the House. However, many developments of doubtful legal validity took place. No political situations are the same but the constitutional principles and procedures that should guide action by concerned authorities in such situations should be the same. The Supreme Court has laid down in the Bommai case judgment that the only venue to test the strength of a state government is the floor of the Assembly. This has not happened in Arunachal Pradesh. The failure of the Assembly to meet at least once in six months shows a failure of the Constitution. But the government would have done well to wait for clarity on the matter as the issues involved are complicated. The decision has been challenged in the Supreme Court and the court has rightly expressed its displeasure over the government not informing it of its action when it was seized of the matter.

The government acted like many other governments in the past which have used Article 356 on the slight-est pretext as a weapon against state governments
run by opposition parties. It has gone against its own claims of respect for federalism. It has also chosen to go in for a political confrontation with the opposition before the Budget session of parliament. The imposi-tion of the President’s rule has to be ratified by parliament. It may not be easy to ratify it in the Rajya Sabha. But the court’s view on the legal validity of the government’s action might be known even before that.

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