In a major embarrassment to the Narendra Modi government, the Supreme Court on Wednesday has restored Congress rule in Arunachal Pradesh and declared the Governor’s decision to dismiss the deposed Nabam Tuki government illegal.
After months of delay, the five bench judges of the Court headed by Justice JS Khehar in a unanimous verdict said that Governor Governor Jyoti Prasad Rajkhowa’s decision to advance the state legislative Assembly session by a month was a violation of the Constitution and liable to be quashed.
The verdict “turned the clock back” to December 15, restoring the political status quo as on that date.
The court also said that all orders passed by Rajkhowa after December 9, 2015, are unsustainable.
In early December, Tuki's Congress government had a more than comfortable majority with 47 members in the 60-member house, though he had faced dissent from Kalikho Pul, a colleague, whom he had ousted from his cabinet in April 2015.
Things went out of hand after the Governor brought the Assembly session forward by a month in December. On December 8, the Speaker disqualified 14 MLAs of the Congress. On December 9, the Governor faxed a resolution removing the Speaker from the office as the first item of business, which was held outside the Assembly hall on December 16.
Pul's faction of 21 congress MLAs rebelled against Tuki, joined forces with the Bharatiya Janata Party's 11 MLAs and two independent legislators and, at a meeting in a community hall, decided to impeach the Speaker ‒ a move that had no legal validity. The Chief Minister was voted out as well, in this meeting.As the state was thrown into political instability and a battleground for political power, overseen and guided by the Governor, the Centre was quick to impose President’s rule on January 26, effectively removing Congress from power.
Later, the speaker, who was removed, went to the Court asking whether the Governor had the power to call a special session of the Assembly without consultation with the state government.
President's rule was lifted and Pul, the leader of the rebel Congress faction, was sworn in as chief minister on February 19. Soon thereafter, he merged his faction of the Congress party with the People’s Party of Arunachal.
Deposed Speaker Nabam Rebia has said that the move of the Governor was politically motivated and he was acting at the behest of the BJP to topple the democratically elected Congress government.
Even though the Supreme Court verdict has come as a major embarrassment for the Centre, the ouster of Kalikho Pul is likely to be only for a short time as he has the majority support in the 58-member Assembly (two Congress members were expelled, reducing the strength of the House from 60 to 58).
Congress has expressed the hope via its spokesperson and MLA Bamang Felix that the rebelling MLAs who deserted Tuki to support Pul will return back to the fold with the Supreme Court verdict.
Tuki and Congress stand vindicated with the Supreme Court verdict, Felix said. Even as the Supreme Court gave the verdict, the chief ministers of BJP and its allies, including Kalikho Pul, were meeting the party president Amit Shah as he launched North East Democratic Alliance in Guwahati, a platform that is supposed to spearhead the party's goal of a Congress-less North East, in pursuance of its goal of Congress-mukt India.