“Cow slaughter” was cited by Governor Jyoti Prasad Rajkhowa as a sign of complete collapse of law and order in Arunachal Pradesh while recommending imposition of President’s Rule in the state. Claiming breakdown of the constitutional machinery, the Governor also attached photographs of a “cow” — a Mithun — being slaughtered outside Raj Bhavan as a material justifying the proclamation of emergency.
This was disclosed Wednesday by the Governor’s counsel Satya Pal Jain in the Supreme Court which asked the central government and Rajkhowa to adduce all relevant materials showing good reasons for imposition of President’s Rule in the state, and observed that the “matter is too serious”.
Jain, who had been asked by a Constitution Bench led by Justice J S Khehar to place the Governor’s report before it, said a series of reports had been sent by the Governor to the President and the Union Home Ministry, but he would not want to share them with the Congress and its leaders who are petitioners in the matter.
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“We will show everything to the court though. We will show you (judges) the photographs of cow slaughter too… it is there in one of the reports,” said Jain, an Additional Solicitor General and a former BJP MP.
On December 17, after the High Court kept in abeyance the Governor’s decisions to advance the assembly session which led to the toppling of the Congress government in the state, several Congress leaders, according to the Governor’s letter to the President, sacrificed a Mithun outside Raj Bhavan.
Mithun, also known as the cattle of the mountains, is a bovine species of the north-eastern region, recognised as the state animal in Arunachal Pradesh.
Asking Jain to place in a sealed cover all the reports forwarded by the Governor for its scrutiny on Monday, the five-judge bench issued notices to the Centre and Rajkhowa, and asked them to file their replies by Friday to the petitions challenging the Governor’s recommendation.
“It is a matter of priority for us… file your replies by Friday and we will take it up on Monday… also, we will make it clear that we will not pass any order until we have heard all the parties. It is a constitutional issue and we will not pass order just like that… this proclamation has to be defended by the Attorney General,” the bench told Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi who represented the Centre.
Rohatgi, however, said the petitions by the Congress leaders were “misconceived” and should not be entertained since they had challenged the Governor’s recommendation but not the President’s notification, the substantial cause of action.
“They filed this petition on January 24 whereas the President’s notification came on January 26. Where is the challenge to the notification by them? Further, they cannot be allowed to challenge the Governor’s recommendation since it is immune. How can such a petition be entertained? Everyone has to comply with procedural requirements and this court is also bound by the rules. They must file a fresh petition. There cannot be any super-injunction by this court on a petition like this,” he said.
But the bench asked the Attorney General not to delve into technicalities and accept the notice for filing a response. “We are not thinking about super-injunction. We have issued notice to you and whatever may be the worth of their petition, you file your reply,” the bench told Rohatgi.
The bench also accepted a plea by senior advocates Fali S Nariman and Kapil Sibal, who appeared for the Arunachal Pradesh speaker and chief whip of the Congress legislature party, to amend the petitions to counter the Governor’s report as well as the President’s notification.
It directed Jain, the Governor’s counsel, to share with the petitioners the date of his report recommending proclamation of emergency.
Nariman and Sibal pressed for the exact date of the Governor’s recommendation as they reminded the bench that he had assured the court that “nothing untoward or precipitative” would be done without informing the bench during the pendency of the matter.
“You were here… you should have updated us. It was your duty to apprise us if there was any movement,” the bench told Jain. It said it would decide on February 1 whether the petitioners should also be given the Governor’s reports. It also expressed “doubts” regarding secrecy of the Governor’s report.
During the proceedings, Sibal requested the bench to ensure their plea is not rendered infructuous by swearing-in a new Chief Minister followed by a floor test. The bench said it acknowledged there are “alive” issues and that it would examine his requests on the next date of hearing.
The bench has been hearing a batch of petitions since last week, challenging various decisions of the Governor and other actions which led to the Opposition BJP and rebel Congress MLAs getting together to “vote out” Chief Minister Nabam Tuki.