Stressing that it is not posing a challenge to the Centre's authority, the Supreme Court ordered the government to provide to deposed Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Nabam Tuki and his ministers copies of all files and documents, including originals of papers of a personal nature, seized by Governor J.P. Rajkhowa from their offices and residences within hours of proclamation of emergency on Republic Day.
A five-bench Constitution Bench led by Justie J.S.Khehar said it is "basic fairness level" to return the documents and letters seized from them so that they can fight in the Supreme Court the allegations, including corruption and terror links, raised against them by the Governor, based on which the Union Cabinet had recommended President's Rule.
The Governor had issued an office memorandum on January 26 directing the seizure of official documents, office equipment and files and sealing of offices of the deposed CM and ministers with immediate effect.
Mr. Tuki, represented by senior advocates Fali Nariman and Kapil Sibal, said this memorandum besides showing the "antagonistic attitude" of the Governor towards his government also handicapped him from preparing a defence against the allegations. He submitted that there were about 100 letters between the CM and Governor which would disprove the latter's allegations.
Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, for the Centre, objected that the Tuki government was on a roving enquiry and they suffered from no such handicap. He argued that the memorandum was a natural corollary of President's Rule and a measure to keep government documents in safe custody.
"Tomorrow they will ask for the letter they sent the sun," Mr. Rohatgi said.
He said the government was willing to hand over the court all the communications.
However, the court advised Mr. Rohatgi not to "bring the battle" to the Bench.
"At the moment we are not touching upon your authority... All we are saying us you give them the documents so they can prepare a good defence in court," Justice Khehar explained to Mr. Rohatgi.
The court ordered the Centre to provide copies of documents seized and download data from the hard drives of the seized computers and laptops. These should be given back to Mr.Tuki and his ministers along with originals of any personal papers, files, documents, etc, seized from them.
Based on these additional materials, Mr. Tuki's side has been asked to file amended pleas by Friday. The case has been scheduled for hearing on Monday next.