Will put the clock back if decide against governor’s action: SC

New Delhi, Feb 22 IANS) The Supreme Court on Monday reserved its verdict on the petitions challenging Arunachal Pradesh Governor J.P. Rajkhowa’s decision to advance the assembly session and direct it to take up a resolution for the speaker’s removal first, saying it would put the clock back if it found he had overstepped his jurisdiction.

Governor Rajkhowa had advanced to December 16, 2015, the session that was earlier scheduled to meet on January 14, in the wake of dissident activities in the northeastern border state. He had directed that the resolution for the removal of Speaker Nabam Rebia be taken up as item number one and the party composition in the house remain unaltered.

Reserving its verdict, the constitution bench of Justice Jagdish Singh Khehar, Justice Dipak Misra, Justice Madan B. Lokur, Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghosh and Justice N.V. Ramana said that if they come to conclusion that the governor had exceeded his jurisdiction in exercise of his discretionary powers, then it would put the clock back to the situation prior to December 16.

Its stand came as senior counsel T.R.Andhyarijuna, appearing for Rajkhowa, said that if the court comes to the conclusion that the governor could not have advanced the assembly session and directed it to take up the removal of speaker first, then it could quash that decision only and not the recommendation for imposition of president’s rule.

His response came as Justice Lokur asked that if the governor’s exercise of discretion goes but does the promulgation of the president’s rule go too.

As Andhyarijuna said “No”, Justice Khehar said: “Why so. Whatever happens from December 16 (holding of the advanced assembly session) onward all goes except the disqualification of 14 MLAs which is a separate matter before the (Gauhati) high court.”

In an observation, the court said that “this is a defection which nobody can recognise under the constitution”.

At the outset, senior counsel Fali Nariman urged the court to hear their fresh plea as how could a governor, who is party to the matter being heard by the court, swear in the new chief minister on Friday while the governor’s counsel had told the court that he wants to make some comments.

Nariman told the court that two and half hours later, the president’s rule was revoked and at a few hours hence, Rajkhowa swore in Kalikho Pul as new chief minister.

Justice Khehar, presiding over the bench, said that this would be enlarging the scope of the hearing which has been already going on for so long and would lead to a hotchpotch situation.

“We have to compartmentalise it,” he said.

He told senior counsel Nariman and Kapil Sibal that they would deal with the issues before it in a “piecemeal” manner and they must have “confidence” in the court.

Both Nariman and Sibal told the court that it (court) would take its time to pronounce the judgment and in the meantime, they (the opposition) would “purchase” the MLAs and create two-third majority for themselves.

But the court said that if they held that the governor has discretionary powers, then all that has happened is in place, “but if we decide that governor has no discretion then everything will go”.

“Clock will be set back. Somebody should know,” said the bench.

But as Sibal argued that “if dissolution (of the assembly) happens”, then the court can’t “put the clock back”, the court reassured him.

“Why, it can happen (clock will be put back), absolutely it will happen,” said Justice Khehar, holding the court was capable of dealing with any situation and could not be confronted with fait accompli.

As Andhyarijuna told the court not to go that far as it would land the court in political arena, Justice Ghosh said: “We don’t know politics. We know law only.”

Justice Khehar said that at one stage, the bench had considered the option of concluding the hearing and pronounce the operative order with the reasoned judgment coming in due course, “but we decided otherwise because even though issues before the court have come from Arunachal Pradesh, it will affect every state”.

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