The imbroglio in this state was set to rest with the apex court refusing to interfere in the appointment of new chief minister Kalikho Pul
By Shariq Ahmed
The whole controversy started when Arunachal governor JP Rajkhowa in a message dated December 9, 2015, to the assembly, fixed the resolution removing Nabam Rebia as speaker as the first item of business in the advanced assembly session held on December 16, 2015. The cabinet led by chief minister NabamTuki, sensing the adverse scenario, passed a resolution on December 14, 2015, that the governor’s decision to advance the assembly was contrary to the constitutional provisions and Rules of Procedure. On December 15, 2015, Rebia disqualified 14 dissident MLAs of the ruling Congress under the anti-defection law. On December 16, 2015, deputy speaker Tenzing Norbu Thongdok, in a “session” held outside the assembly, ordered the removal of the speaker in pursuance of the resolution adopted by the “assembly”. He also quashed the order of the speaker disqualifying the MLAs. Speaker Rebia challenged both these orders before the Gauhati High Court. The matter was first heard by Justice Hrishikesh Roy, who termed the governor’s act as “unworthy of the state’s constitutional head”. He stayed the governor’s notification and the deputy speaker’s action.
Strangely, at this point, the bench of the High Court was reconstituted by acting chief justice Tinlianthang Vaiphe on a petition by opposition parties. The bench now comprised of Justice BK Sharma who said the role of a governor cannot be examined by the court in view of Article 212 of the constitution.
Aggrieved with the findings of Justice Sharma, Nabam Rebia approached the Supreme Court. Meanwhile, on the basis of the report of the governor, the President declared emergency in Arunachal Pradesh. This was also challenged before the constitution bench. Subsequently, on February 1, 2016, the bench said the governor has complete immunity under Article 361 of the constitution.
On February 17, 2016, the Union cabinet recommended revocation of President’s rule. However, a few hours later, the apex court issued an interim order for status quo. But it was vacated. The bench further directed Gauhati High Court to hear the writ before a division bench on February 22. It also found that Rebia had not served the mandatory disqualification notices to the 14 rebel Congress MLAs, thereby violating the principles of natural justice. The apex court, therefore, did not deem it fit to interfere with the interim order of the High Court.
Kalikho Pul, a dissident Congress MLA, was administered the oath of office of chief minister by Governor JP Rajkhowa on February 20, 2016. One last attempt to thwart this was made in the apex court when Sibal representing Congress leaders of the state, requested the bench to allow a floor test for Pul to prove his majority. The bench declined.
—The writer is an advocate in the Supreme Court