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Disturbing: SC stays Andhra HC order to examine constitutional breakdown

The state government, in its appeal, said the High Court “in an unprecedented manner and without any basis or pleadings by any of the parties to that effect, has framed the... question”.

Written by Ananthakrishnan G | New Delhi | Updated: December 19, 2020 8:18:54 am
Supreme Court enters uncharted territory; in Aadhaar, poll bonds, took another standSupreme Court of India

Calling it “disturbing”, the Supreme Court Friday stayed an order of the Andhra Pradesh High Court to examine if there has been constitutional breakdown in the state under the Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy government.

Hearing an appeal by the Andhra Pradesh government, a bench headed by Chief Justice of India S A Bobde stayed the October 1 order of the High Court, stating that “as an apex court, we find it disturbing”.

The bench, also comprising Justices A S Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian, issued notice on the plea and directed that the matter be listed after the Christmas/New Year vacation.

On October 1, the High Court, while hearing a clutch of habeas corpus petitions, said “on the next hearing date, the learned senior counsel appearing on behalf of the State may come prepared to assist the Court as to whether in the circumstances which are prevailing in the State of Andhra Pradesh, the Court can record a finding that there is a Constitutional breakdown in the State or not”.

The state government, in its appeal, said the High Court “in an unprecedented manner and without any basis or pleadings by any of the parties to that effect, has framed the… question”.

The state said “under the scheme of the Constitution, it is Article 356 that deals with failure of Constitutional machinery in a State. Under this Article, if the President, on receipt of a report from the Governor of a State or otherwise, is satisfied that a situation has arisen in which the government of the State cannot be carried on in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution, the Hon’ble President can impose President’s Rule”.

“This is a power exclusively vested in the Executive. The power in this regard, like sending a report either to the Hon’ble President or to the Hon’ble Governor or to record a finding in that regard, cannot be exercised by the Judiciary,” it said.

The appeal contended that the High Court order is “uncalled for; violative of the basic structure of the Constitution; and, it is most respectfully submitted, grossly misconceived”.

The state pointed out that “under the Constitutional framework, it is not for the Courts to decide as to whether there is a Constitutional breakdown in a State” and “the said power has been specifically conferred upon a different Constitutional Authority — and rightly so”.

“Constitutional courts,” the state said in its appeal, “do not have any judicially discoverable and manageable standards to determine if there has been a Constitutional breakdown in the State. The said fact is essentially an executive function and is necessarily required to be based on a detailed factual analysis. The courts simply do not have any means to decide such a question.”

According to the state, the High Court order “is a serious encroachment on the powers of the executive as enumerated under the Constitution and is thus violative of the doctrine of separation of powers”.

The High Court, it said, “has completely ignored the warning” given by the Supreme Court “advising the Hon’ble Courts to respect the other co-equal organs of the State and to refrain from assuming executive powers to itself”.

The state said although it had filed an “application” in the High Court “to recall” the October 1 order, it “is not being taken up”.

The state government has been on a collision course with the High Court and Chief Minister Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy sent a letter to the CJI on October 6, alleging judicial impropriety on the part of some judges of the High Court and senior Supreme Court judge N V Ramana.

Reddy’s letter to the CJI came at a time when the bench headed by Justice Ramana was hearing a PIL for fast-tracking cases against sitting and former MPs and MLAs. Following an order of the Supreme Court, the trial in one of them — a disproportionate assets case against Reddy — had resumed in a CBI Special Court in Hyderabad.

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