Hours after the Union Cabinet decided to recommend revocation of President's Rule in Arunachal Pradesh, Supreme Court today ordered maintenance of status quo in the crisis-ridden state till it examined judicial and assembly records on disqualification of 14 rebel Congress MLAs by former Speaker Nabam Rebia.
The major interim order came after senior lawyers F S Nariman and Kapil Sibal, appearing for Arunachal Congress leaders, sought maintenance of status quo till their plea seeking to restrain Governor J P Rajkhowa from swearing in a new government in Arunachal Pradesh was decided.
The lawyers had not succeeded in this effort yesterday when the five-judge constitution bench headed by Justice J S Khehar had refused to pass an interim order on their plea.
The bench today directed the Secretary General of Arunachal Pradesh Assembly and the Gauhati High Court Registry to furnish records on disqualification of the MLAs preferrably by tomorrow.
"We are of the view, that it is essential to peruse the original record pertaining to the disqualification of the 14 MLAs.
"The record pertaining to the proceedings conducted by the Speaker Nabam Rebia, under the Xth Schedule of the Constitution pertaining to disqualification of the 14 MLAs, held on December 14 and 15, 2015, be produced in this Court in a sealed cover at the earliest, preferably by 10.30 am on February 18, 2016, by the Secretary of the State Legislative Assembly, in whose official custody, we are informed, the original record is available," the bench said.
The bench, also comprising justices Dipak Misra, M B Lokur, P C Ghose and N V Ramana, said that some part of the records, was also in the safe custody of the Gauhati High Court and has been retained in a sealed cover.
"The Registrar General of the Gauhati High Court is directed to ensure that the sealed record pertaining to the disqualification of the 14 MLAs, is produced in this Court at the earliest, preferably by 10.30 am on February 18, 2016. In the meantime, the parties before this Court shall maintain status quo," the bench said.
When the apex court, which is hearing a batch of pleas on constitutional powers of the Governors, resumed proceeding after lunch, senior advocates Fali S Nariman and Kapil Sibal mentioned that Union Cabinet had today recomended revocation of President's Rule in the state.
Both senior lawyers Nariman and Sibal requested the bench to consider their plea for interim relief, saying they apprehend that by tomorrow morning a new Chief Minister will be sworn in.
Nariman said the Governor had on January 26 dismissed the Chief Minister and his council of ministers even when the assembly was in suspended animation.
"Governor cannot pass any such order during the subsistence of proclamation," he said, adding that even the Gauhati High Court should not have stayed the disqualification of the 14 MLAs as Chief Whip of the party was not impleaded in the case.
The bench then said that the interim order of the High Court came on the ground that these 14 MLAs were not served notice.
"If you have some evidence that they (rebel MLAs) were served notice before being disqualified by the Speaker, then its altogether a different matter," the bench said.
Nariman denied having any such record with him and said that an ad-interim order passed by the High Court cannot be passed in the limited powers of judicial review.
Senior advocate Rakesh Dwivedi, appearing for some rebel Congress MLAs, opposed the plea and contended that this petition was not maintainable.
"Till now, the complainant (Chief Whip) has not come before the court. They should have challenged the interim order of the High Court or should have filed an application for vacation of the stay," Dwivedi said.
He said the hearing was deferred on December 14 to 15, 2015 after the Speaker was informed that notices have been not served.
The bench then said it wanted to see the original records of proceedings which happened on December 14 and 15 and posted the matter for further hearing on tomorrow.