President Pranab Mukherjee today approved the recommendation of the Union Cabinet to impose President’s Rule in Arunachal Pradesh that’s been wracked by political turmoil, a Raj Bhavan in the firing line and an ongoing legal battle in the Supreme Court.
The decision, slammed by the Opposition as “murder of democracy,” came even as some legal experts, sources said, had suggested that the President wait until Wednesday for the Supreme Court to take up a Congress petition challenging the Centre’s decision. The Assembly has been placed under suspended animation.
Former Delhi police commissioner Y S Dadwal and former IAS officer G S Patnaik have been appointed advisors to the Governor.
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Indicating Monday that he was not in sync with the Cabinet recommendation, the President had called Home Minister Rajnath Singh to seek clarifications on the issue.
Sources told The Indian Express that the President had taken inputs from legal experts — even before the Cabinet meeting on Sunday — on what should be his decision on the issue of placing Arunachal Pradesh under President’s Rule.
But he seems to have decided to endorse the Cabinet’s recommendation after the explanation by the Home Minister. Under the Constitution, the President can ask the Cabinet to reconsider its recommendation but if the Cabinet reiterates, the President has no option but to agree.
Sources said the President had been advised that the court will “most certainly” examine the controversial role played by Governor Jyoti Prasad Rajkhowa, especially his December 9 message to the Arunachal Pradesh legislative assembly.
The message, sent under Article 175 (2) of the Constitution, ordered advancing the winter session of the Assembly to December 16 from the scheduled date of January 14.
Rajkhowa also ordered that the resolution for removal of Speaker Nabam Rebia — an impeachment motion to this effect was moved by 11 BJP MLAs and two independent legislators who were joined by 21 rebel Congress MLAs in the 60-member House — should be the first item on the agenda and that the Deputy Speaker, against whom an impeachment motion had been moved by 16 MLAs, and not the Speaker would be in the chair.
The Congress has alleged that the Governor’s action is in contravention of the Constitution and he may not have received proper legal advice. His reports — he has been sending them to the Centre and these are reflected in the Cabinet note — have also not strengthened the case for imposition of President’s Rule.
But on Sunday morning, when the Cabinet met, sources said there was not much of a discussion on the pros and cons of the move. It was left to Rajnath Singh to explain why the Home Ministry was seeking Cabinet nod to recommend President’s Rule under Article 356.
Singh is learnt to have told his Cabinet colleagues that according to the Governor’s reports, there was “complete breakdown” of the constitutional machinery in the state and the government there was unable to prove its majority on the floor of the House.
In its petition filed Monday, the Congress accused the Governor of working at the behest of the Centre to topple its government. The petition also sought scrutiny of the material that led to the Governor’s recommendation and the Cabinet making its recommendation.
The Congress wants restoration of the Nabam Tuki government along with his Council of Ministers by “reviving and reactivating” the sixth Arunachal Pradesh legislative assembly.
“The exercise of power in the present case under Article 356 (emergency) of the Constitution of India is only with a view to illegally topple the duly elected government of the Congress party, headed by Nabam Tuki, by unconstitutional means… the recommendation of Governor under Article 356 of the Constitution in the present case is to promote the political interests of party in power at the Centre,” stated the petition filed by Rajesh Tacho, chief whip of the Congress legislature party.
Despite repeated attempts, President’s Press Secretary Venu Rajamony could not be reached for comments.
The Congress, JD-U, CPI and AAP slammed the decision calling it a “murder” of democracy and federalism and accused the BJP-led government at the Centre of “insulting” the highest court of the country that is now hearing the matter. The BJP, however, defended the decision saying it is as per Constitutional mandate.