Restore propriety in Arunachal Pradesh

The revocation of President’s Rule in any State ought to be welcomed, as it paves the way for the installation of a popular government. The latest Supreme Court order allowing the Union government to withdraw the proclamation bringing Arunachal Pradesh under Central rule may end the prevailing uncertainty and help avoid a constitutional vacuum, but it may not prevent more legal tangles. There will certainly be a political tussle over the course of action that Governor J.P. Rajkhowa ought to adopt as soon as the suspended Assembly is revived. The Congress argues that its regime headed by former Chief Minister Nabam Tuki will stand automatically restored. However, there is enough indication that the Governor’s favoured option will be to invite the Congress rebel Kalikho Pul, who has the backing of the Bharatiya Janata Party, to form the government. Mr. Pul may have little difficulty in passing a floor test as he claims the support of 32 MLAs in the Assembly, which now is 58-strong. While lifting its earlier directive to maintain the status quo, the Constitution Bench has not interfered with the Gauhati High Court order staying the disqualification of 14 legislators by Speaker Nabam Rebia. This may mean that the 14 Congress dissidents will be allowed to vote on the confidence motion. At the same time, the Bench has asked the High Court to expedite the final hearing on their petitions challenging the legality of their disqualification.

Legally, there is no bar on the Governor inviting anyone who, in his opinion, is in a position to command a majority to form the government as early as possible. However, a question will surely arise as to whether he should not first allow Mr. Tuki an opportunity to test his majority, especially if the 14 MLAs whose disqualification has been stayed are allowed to vote. Another issue of propriety would be whether the Governor should ask for a vote in the House before the High Court decides on the validity of their disqualification. And if Mr. Pul is invited first and he demonstrates his majority thanks to the clutch of Congress rebels with him, a piquant situation would arise if the Constitution Bench declares the imposition of President’s Rule illegal. The Tuki regime may have to be reinstated even though the House has reposed faith in another Chief Minister! There is little doubt that constitutional propriety has taken a beating in Arunachal Pradesh in the last couple of months. The list of unseemly developments is long. Dissidents managed to unseat a Chief Minister with active support from the Raj Bhavan, whose incumbent advanced a scheduled Assembly session; a farcical ‘sitting’ of the Assembly took place at a makeshift venue; questionable resolutions were passed to ‘remove’ the Speaker and the Chief Minister, and President’s Rule was imposed in the midst of a Supreme Court hearing. Indisputably, democracy works through political processes, but it becomes a travesty when partisan politics overshadows constitutional norms.

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Printable version | Jan 24, 2021 9:40:53 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/restore-propriety-in-arunachal-pradesh/article8253725.ece

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