Provide copies of documents to former Arunachal CM, SC tells government

New Delhi, Feb 1 (IANS) Asking the government to act fairly instead of invoking technical objections, the Supreme Court on Monday asked it to make available to former Arunachal Pradesh chief minister Nabam Tuki, copies of all files and documents taken away from his office after it was sealed following the promulgation of President’s rule in the state on January 26.

The court has also directed that the copies of the hard disc of the computers and laptops of Tuki should be provided to him too. The court direction would also cover the former ministers and parliamentary secretaries in Tuki government.

Besides this, the court said that all the private letters, books and files, if any, which came to be seized and which are in the custody of the administrator/chief secretary after their offices were sealed, should too be returned to them in original.

Passing the direction be complied with by Friday (February 5), a constitution bench of Justice Jagdish Singh Khehar, Justice Dipak Misra, Justice Madan B. Lokur, Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghosh and Jutice N.V. Ramana said that the former chief minister and others should get a fair chance to rely on documents in support of their case.

“We are of the view that certain records deserves to be furnished to the former chief minister and ministers whose offices have been sealed and from whose offices, files and documents have been taken away,” the court said in its order.

Asking Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi to make available the copies of the documents taken away, the court said: “This is the basic fairness level. You are not giving them.”

Initially hesitant to give any document, Rohatgi told the court that all it had to examine is “whether there is material for the promulgation of President’s rule and if (court is satisfied) it is there then everything else goes”.

But the court was not impressed with his argument.

“You are on technicality. We are on fairness. Allow them to fight their own battles. If you have a sword, then you have to allow other side to have a sword too,” said Justice Khehar.

Seeking more time to provide the documents, Rohatgi said that it has to be seen that certain privileged documents are not given out.

The court order came as senior counsel Fali Nariman who along with other senior counsel Kapil Sibal, Rajeev Dhavan and Vivek Tankha are leading the challenge to the President’s rule urged the court that Tuki must get the copies of all the documents taken away from his office and official residence following Rajkhowa’s directions on January 26.

Nariman also sought the stay of January 26 memorandum issued by the governor dismissing the chief minister and his council of ministers. He said that under the President’s rule, their functioning gets suspended and executive functions are performed by the governor but the chief minister and the council of ministers don’t cease to exist.

He said what Governor Rajkhowa has done was presenting a fait accompli wherein even if Presidential promulgation is set aside by the court, it would lead to fresh polls and not the automatic revival of Tuki government and described the action as “unprecedented”.

Also describing as “unprecedented” the governor’s action in ordering sealing of their offices, Nariman said Tuki needed these documents to rely upon in his legal battle to establish the malafide and irrational acts of Rajkhowa.

Pointing out that all these acts of the governor were being done in the name of the president, Nariman wondered if the president would have ever acted in such a way.

Meanwhile, the court on Monday recalled its notice issued on January 27 to the governor on a plea by the Congress’ chief whip Rajesh Tacho challenging the imposition of President’s rule as Rohatgi referred to a constitution bench’s judgment which had exempted governors and the president from court proceedings and notice could not be issued to them.

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