Can a person repeatedly avail himself of the benefit of Article 164 (4) of the Constitution and become Chief Minister for at least six months without getting elected member of the legislature?
Raising this question of law, Babu Lal Marandi, MP and president of the Jharkhand Vikas Party on Tuesday moved the Supreme Court, challenging the functioning of Shibu Soren, who had become Jharkhand Chief Minister for the third time invoking Article 164 (4), but without getting elected to the Assembly. Contending that it was a fraud on the Constitution, he sought a direction to the Governor to restrain Mr. Soren, who is an MP, from continuing as Chief Minister.
Time running out
Mr. Marandi, in his petition filed through counsel Anurag Kumar, pointed out that Mr. Soren was sworn in as Chief Minister on December 30, 2009 and he could continue in the post only if he was elected to the legislature within six months. Owing to paucity of time, there was no chance of the Election Commission completing the election process in the remaining 43 days of the six-month time available to Mr. Soren. Further there was no vacancy for him to get elected.
Earlier, in March 2005, Mr. Soren was first sworn in as Chief Minister but he had to quit shortly thereafter, following the court's intervention. Again in August 2008, he became Chief Minister but he got defeated in a January 2009 by-election and he had to resign. And President's Rule was imposed. Again in December last, he became Chief Minister taking advantage of Article 164(4).
The petitioner quoted a Supreme Court judgment in the case of S.R. Chaudhuri vs. the State of Punjab which said, “during the term of the same Legislative Assembly, without getting elected in the meantime was improper, undemocratic, invalid and unconstitutional…”
Mr. Marandi said this petition raised a vital question of constitutional propriety and continuous breach of the mandate under Article 164 (4). On every occasion, Mr. Soren duped the people of Jharkhand. The Governor should view this matter with all seriousness and restrain him from functioning as Chief Minister, the petitioner said and sought a direction in this regard.
The second paragraph of the above report describes Babulal Marandi as MP and president of the Jharkhand Vikas Party. His party is Jharkhand Vikas Morcha – Prajatantrik (JVM-P).