What the Supreme Court could do for the state of Uttarakhand in a few weeks, a five-judge Constitution bench has not been able to achieve in four months for Arunachal Pradesh. The matter is similar, so why the delay? Let me explain.
In both states, the Centre, with the help of rebels of ruling Congress regimes, toppled elected governments and installed President’s rule under Article 356.
This was common practice during the 1970s and 1980s, but came to an end after the 1994 S R Bommai verdict of a nine-judge Constitution bench. This ruled, one, that the ultimate test of legitimacy of an elected government was majority on the floor of the House; and, two, that the President’s power to impose Article 356 was subject to judicial review.
Events in Arunachal, beginning December 2015, are inexplicable. In a total House strength of 58, Congress chief minister Nabam Tuki had a majority of 42 (or72 %). Twenty of his MLAs rebelled and aligned with 11 BJP and two independent members. The Speaker disqualified the rebels, as in Uttarakhand. It brought the House strength down to 38. The Constitution gives the Speaker the authority to take this call.
But in Arunachal, the rebels and supporters convened an ‘alternative’ session — when the House was in recess — in a community hall, ‘impeached’ the Speaker and toppled the government. The governor yielded. All these matters were challenged in court.
By end-January, Article 356 was imposed in AP: the first instance President’s rule has been imposed while being disputed in court. There the matter hangs today. Meanwhile, an unelected government rules AP.
It is incomprehensible why a five-judge bench of the Supreme Court does not consider the precedent set by the Bommai bench, in the case of Arunachal Pradesh . A smaller bench acted decisively in the case of Uttarakhand.
The SC should deliver its verdict on AP as well, without delay.
M. Chajat Lowang, Itanagar