When some wrong takes place, and undoing it is the remedy, it is just and proper that the situation that prevailed before the wrongdoing is restored. However, such restoration may also mean that many a subsequent development, otherwise legal and valid, will also have to be treated as invalid.
By ordering that status quo ante as on December 15, 2015, be restored in Arunachal Pradesh, the Supreme Court has, by implication, invalidated subsequent developments such as the appointment of a new Chief Minister and the election of a new Speaker.
Therefore, it is logical that Nabam Tuki returns as Chief Minister and his cousin Nabam Rebia as Speaker. Strange as it may sound, but Kalikho Pul, sworn in as Chief Minister in February, will have to leave office even though he has proved his majority on the floor of the Assembly.
Wangki Lowang, the Speaker elected after Mr. Pul took over, will also have to make way for his predecessor.Floor test
The Acting Governor, Tathagata Roy, has asked Mr. Tuki to face a fresh floor test on Saturday. The question that arises now is whether the 14 legislators disqualified on December 15 last by Mr. Rebia, can participate in the proceedings. As things stand, they must be allowed to attend the sitting and vote because their disqualification was struck down by the Gauhati High Court in March on the ground of violation of principles of natural justice, and not on merits.
It is possible that the Speaker (Mr. Rebia) may take the view that their disqualification petitions also stand revived by the Supreme Court’s status quo ante order and that he may seek to hear them afresh. In such a situation, it may be contended by the Opposition that a motion dated November 19, 2015, by some members of the then Opposition seeking the removal of Mr. Rebia as Speaker also stands revived by dint of the same judgment.
In such an event, the Speaker may be unable to adjudicate on any disqualification question while a motion for his removal is pending. Both the main judgment authored by Justice Khehar and Justice Dipak Misra’s separate, but concurring opinion emphasise this point and say the Speaker cannot alter the composition of the House, as any motion for his removal must be passed by a majority of “all the then Members” of the Assembly.
Two votes will be crucial when the Assembly reconvenes: one to test Mr. Tuki’s majority as ordered by the Governor and another on the Speaker’s continuance. It may not matter which motion should take precedence, as the support or lack of it for the regime as well as Mr. Rebia is most likely to be decided by the same numbers.