The SC judgment means the present Arunachal Pradesh government headed by Kalikho Pul would have to step down now to make way for Congress government headed by Nabam Tuki .
This is a historic verdict as it is for the first time that the apex court has put back a state government that had been dismissed by the Centre under the President’s rule.
On December 9, 2015, governor Rajkhowa had issued an order preponing the commencement of assembly session from January 14 to December 16.
The governor had directed that the resolution for the removal of Speaker Rebia moved by the dissidents including opposition BJP lawmakers taken up as item number one and the party composition of the state assembly would remain unaltered.
It was argued on behalf of governor Rajkhowa that if governor, under the constitution, had power to prorogue the House then he could as well advance its commencement otherwise scheduled for later date.
In its landmark unanimous verdict,
a five judge constitution bench, headed by Justice J S Khehar, ordered that status quo ante as prevailed on December 15, 2015 be restored in Arunachal Pradesh assembly.
It held that all steps and decisions taken by Arunachal Pradesh Legislative assembly in pursuance to the governor’s order of December 9, 2015, are unsustainable.
The Nabam Tuki-led government was dismissed following days of turmoil after 21 of the 47 Congress MLAs rebelled against the chief minister. Arunachal Pradesh was placed under President’s rule on January 26.
Just before the apex court had reserved its verdict on February 20 this year, rebel Congress leader Kalikho Pul was sworn in as chief minister of Arunachal Pradesh with the support of 18 dissident Congress MLAs and two independents and 11 BJP MLAs who gave outside support in the 60-member assembly.
Besides Justice Khehar, other members of the bench were Justices Dipak Misra, M B Lokur, P C Ghose and N V Ramana.
Today’s verdict comes as a shot in the arm for Congress months with Arunachal Pradesh becoming the second state after Uttarakhand where the party-ruled government was restored by the apex court.
Welcoming the verdict, Tuki said it was “historic” and that it has protected democracy and ensuring justice.
“The Supreme Court verdict today is a historic. It paves way to protect healthy democracy in the country,” Tuki, who was the chief minister of Arunachal before his government was brought down, said.
Justice Khehar pronounced the voluminous main judgement and read out the operative portion, saying that the order of the governor dated December 9, 2015, preponing the session of legislative assembly from January 14, 2016, to December 16, 2015, is violative of Article 163 read with Article 174 of the Constitution and as such is liable to be quashed and the same is quashed.
“Secondly, the message of governor directing the manner of conducting the proceedings of the sixth session of legislative assembly of Arunachal Pradesh from December 16-18, 2015, is violative of Article 163 read with Article 175 of the Constitution and as such is liable to be quashed and the same is quashed,” the bench said.
Thirdly, the bench said “all steps and decisions taken by the Legislative assembly of Arunachal Pradesh in pursuant to governor’s order of December 9, 2015, are unsustainable and liable to be set aside and as such it is set aside.”
Finally, the bench said “In view of the decision from one to three, status quo ante as it prevailed on December 15, 2015, is ordered to be restored.”
Justices Misra and Lokur read a separate and concurrent judgement stating that they do not disagree with the view of Justice Khehar and added few more remarks relating to the office of the governor and the speaker.
Justice Misra said that the conduct of the governor should not only be impartial but should appear to be perceptibly impartial.
The bench had earlier segregated two other sets of petitions which were filed against the subsequent promulgation of President’s Rule in the state and its revocation thereafter, which had led to formation of a new government.
It had fixed these pleas for hearing after pronouncement of verdict on petitions dealing with Governor’s discretionary powers in advancing the assembly session and setting the agenda of the House.
On the day the verdict was reserved in February, the bench had refused to pass an interim order on a fervent plea of Congress against the “illegal” swearing-in of Pul-led government and had said that it can “set the clock back” if the Governor’s actions are found unconstitutional.