Editorial

Unlawful dissolution: On J&K Assembly

The J&K Governor’s action controverts what has been laid down by the Supreme Court

In dissolving the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly without giving any claimant an opportunity to form the government, Governor Satya Pal Malik has violated constitutional law and convention. Mr. Malik’s stated reasons for his action — “extensive horse trading” and the possibility that a government formed by parties with “opposing political ideologies” would not be stable — are extraneous. The Governor ought to have known that the Supreme Court has deprecated such a line of reasoning. In Rameshwar Prasad (2006), the then Bihar Governor Buta Singh’s recommendation for dissolving the Assembly the previous year was held to be illegal and mala fide. In both instances, the dissolution came just as parties opposed to the ruling dispensation at the Centre were close to staking a claim to form the government. In Bihar, the Assembly was then in suspended animation as no party or combination had the requisite majority; in J&K, the State has been under Governor’s rule since June, when the BJP withdrew from the coalition and Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, of the Peoples Democratic Party, resigned. It is true that the PDP and the National Conference had not initiated any move to form a popular government for months and favoured fresh elections. But that cannot be the reason for the Governor to dissolve the 87-member House just when they were about to come together to form a likely 56-member bloc with the help of the Congress.

With the BJP backing Peoples Conference leader Sajjad Lone, the PDP may have sensed a danger to the unity of its 29-member legislature party and agreed to an unusual alliance with its political adversaries. Describing such an alliance as opportunistic is fine as far as it is political opinion; however, it cannot be the basis for constitutional action. As indicated in Rameshwar Prasad, a Governor cannot shut out post-poll alliances altogether as one of the ways in which a popular government may be formed. The court had also said unsubstantiated claims of horse-trading or corruption in efforts at government formation cannot be cited as reasons to dissolve the Assembly. Further, it said it was the Governor’s duty to explore the possibility of forming a popular government, and that he could not dissolve the House solely to prevent a combination from staking its claim. Mr. Malik’s remarks that the PDP and the NC did not show proof of majority or parade MLAs show shocking disregard for the primacy accorded to a floor test. J&K’s relationship with the Centre is rooted in constitutional safeguards as well as in the participation of its major parties in electoral politics and parliamentary democracy. Anyone interested in political stability in the sensitive State should ensure that democratic processes are strengthened. The potential for political instability in the future should not be cited as a reason to scuttle emerging alliances.

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Printable version | Jul 7, 2020 9:03:00 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/unlawful-dissolution/article25570454.ece

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