With seesaw politics in Itanagar deepening the crisis in Arunachal Pradesh, the Gauhati High Court stepped in Thursday, providing temporary relief to the shaky Congress government of Chief Minister Nabam Tuki.
The High Court put on hold until February 1, 2016 all decisions including Governor Jyoti Prasad Rajkhowa’s move to advance the winter session of the assembly by a month.
But late in the night, the Governor’s office said he would appeal against the High Court order since he had not been heard in the matter.
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It added that the High Court order was issued “without going through records and materials available in the Governor’s secretariat”.
The High Court stay also covered Tuki’s “ouster” Thursday by Congress dissidents and BJP legislators, the “election” of former finance minister-turned-rebel Kalikho Pul as “Leader of the House” and the “removal” a day earlier of Speaker Nebam Rebia.
In the 60-member House, Tuki now has support of only 26 Congress legislators while the 34 against him comprise 21 Congress rebels, 11 from BJP and two Independents. The 34 MLAs met in a makeshift assembly for the second day to “oust” Tuki.
The Chief Minister, on his part, appealed to President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, seeking their intervention to “uphold” the Constitution in the face of what he called the “unprecedented murder” of democracy and “bypassing” of an elected government by the Governor.
A PTI report from Guwahati said Justice Hrishikesh Roy of the Gauhati High Court, while coming down heavily on the Governor, kept in abeyance all decisions taken by the state “assembly” Wednesday in which it “removed” Speaker Rebia.
The court order came on a writ petition challenging the December 9 notification issued by the Governor advancing the assembly session. Prima facie the exercise undertaken by the Governor, the court observed, was in “violation of Article 174 and 175” of the Constitution. The two Articles relate to sessions of the state legislature and the right of the Governor to address and send messages to the House. Allowing Kapil Sibal to implead the government of Arunachal Pradesh as a party respondent, the judge posted the case for next hearing on February 1, 2016.
In Itanagar, Governor Rajkhowa told The Indian Express: “I have acted in accordance with the constitutional provisions. I have also maintained that the government can seek legal redressal against my decision. This I had said on December 15 too when the Chief Minister and several of his ministers had come to see me.”
He maintained that all was not well in the state: “There is definitely a constitutional crisis. It is a tumultuous situation, for which the government is responsible. How could the assembly be prevented from functioning properly?”
Chief Minister Tuki, on his part, said: “The Governor is wrong. He has been acting contrary to the Constitution. The Governor is solely responsible for the unprecedented situation including holding a so-called session of the state assembly in a makeshift arrangement, first day in a community hall and next day in a hotel.”
The twin towns of Itanagar and Naharlagun — the state assembly is located in the latter — remained tense throughout the day with supporters of both camps blocking roads, raising slogans and demonstrating outside the Raj Bhavan gates.