SC questions Guv's order to advance Arunachal assembly session

SC questions Guv's order to advance Arunachal assembly session
The Supreme Court today questioned Arunachal Pradesh Governor J P Rajkhowa's decision to advance the assembly session to December last year from this January, asking what difference would it have made if the sitting was held as originally scheduled.

"What would be the change or the difference if the assembly proceedings would have taken place on pre-scheduled January 14 instead of December 16," a five-judge Constitution bench headed by Justice J S Khehar said.

The poser came when senior advocate Rakesh Dwivedi, appearing for some rebel Congress MLAs, said there were serious corruption charges against then Speaker Nabam Rebia and the Governor was empowered under the Constitution to advance the assembly session and instruct that the issue of removal of the Speaker be taken up as first item of business.

"There has to be some object to be achieved by the Governor by wanting to advance the date," the bench, which also comprised Justices Dipak Misra, M B Lokur, P C Ghose and N V Ramana, said.

Responding on a lighter vein to the assertion that the Governor can summon and advance the assembly session, the bench asked, "does it mean that whenever he feels bored, he can call the assembly to feel the excitement?"

The senior lawyer said "the Speaker, who is under clout, cannot and should not be allowed to preside over the house" and added that there was a very limited scope of judicial review in matters where the Governor exercises his powers under the Constitution.

The bench, however, agreed with the contention of Dwivedi that on some occasions, the Governor is not bound to act as per the aid and advice of the Chief Minister and his council of ministers.

"The governor is neither an agent nor an employee and is entitled to act on his own also," the lawyer said.

Yesterday, the court, which is examining the powers of Governors, had taken strong note of a submission that all decisions of the Governor are not open to judicial review.

"If democracy is slaughtered, how can the court remain silent," it had said when a counsel for a BJP MLA of crisis-hit Arunachal Pradesh referred to the powers of the Governors to drive home of the point that courts cannot "review" all the decisions of the Governor.

Earlier, the bench had also summoned dispatch records, having details of correspondences of Arunachal Pradesh assembly from October to till date, on February 8 as it was not satisfied with documents produced by an official of the assembly.

The bench wanted to ascertain certain communications between the office of the then Speaker, Nabam Rebia, and the Governor on issues like convening or advancing assembly session and disqualification of rebel Congress MLAs.

The court would resume hearing on Monday on a batch of pleas filed by Rebia and other Congress leaders against the Gauhati High Court order in the case.

Earlier, the bench had said that Governors are political appointees and their actions are open to judicial review as nowadays even judges are considered for such an assignment.

BJP MLA Tage Taki had also questioned the delay on part of the Congress in moving the Gauhati High Court against the Governor's decision to advance the assembly session.

The Nabam Tuki government, which had initial support of 47 MLAs in 60 member house, allegedly lost the confidence motion by 33 votes in the assembly session held in a community hall in the state capital of Itanagar.

The bench is also examining the authority of the Governor as to whether he can advance the assembly session without the aid and advice of the Chief Minister and his council of ministers.

Congress party, which has 47 MLAs seats in the 60-member assembly, suffered a jolt when 21 of its lawmakers rebelled. Eleven BJP MLAs backed the rebels in the bid to upstage the government. Later, 14 rebel Congress MLAs were disqualified.

The Governor then called the assembly session, scheduled on January 14, on December 16 in which Deputy Speaker revoked the disqualification of 14 rebel Congress MLAs and removed Rebia from the post of Speaker. This sitting was held in a community hall. The court is also considering fresh pleas against imposition of President's Rule in the state and would hear them on February 8.
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