In a historic ruling, the Supreme Court restored the Congress government in Arunachal Pradesh, declaring the actions of Governor JP Rajkhowa ‘illegal’ and violative of the constitutional provisions.
The ruling is seen by many as a snub for the BJP as it had supported the formation of a government led by rebel leader Kalikho Pul. It also came ironically on a day when the BJP is gearing up to launch the Northeast Democratic Alliance (NEDA) in Guwahati, a meeting of all parties in the northeast which are allies of the BJP. Kalikho Pul was also expected to attend the meeting, although that looks unlikely now in the event of the Supreme Court ruling.
The top court’s ruling is the first time when it has reinstated a government even after a new government was formed in its place. It’s also a boost for the Congress, which has accused the BJP of trying to bring down democratically-elected governments.
So how did the crisis begin?
December, 2015 – It started on December 9, when a group of rebel Congress MLAs approached Governor JP Rajkhowa seeking to impeach Speaker Nabam Rebia. Their complaint was that he was trying to get them disqualified from the Assembly. The Governor agreed and called for an emergency session on December 16 to take up the impeachment motion. Congress protested the Governor’s action, but the Centre went ahead and imposed President’s Rule in the state invoking Article 356. In the special session attended by 20 rebel Congress MLAs, 11 BJP MLAs and 2 Independents at a community hall, the impeachment motion was passed and Pul was ‘elected’ as the Leader of the House. The same day, the Speaker disqualified 14 Congress MLAs.
January 5, 2016 – The Gauhati High Court stayed the disqualification of the Congress MLAs and the Speaker’s plea was turned down.
January 15, 2016 – The Supreme Court referred the entire batch of petitions filed by the Speaker to a constitution bench, which is examining the discretionary powers of the Governor.
January 29, 2016 – Nabam Tuki filed a fresh petition in the Supreme Court challenging the imposition of President”s Rule in the state.
January 30, 2016 – The Centre justified the imposition of President’s Rule in the state citing complete breakdown of law and order. It also said the Congress government was in a minority there.
February 2, 2016 – Governor Rajkhowa said the President’s rule in the state was temporary and that a new elected government would soon be formed in its place.
February 4, 2016 – The Supreme Court, examining the powers of Governors, took strong note of a submission that all decisions of the Governor are not open to judicial review and said it cannot be a mute spectator when democratic processes are “slaughtered”.
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February 10, 2016 – The top court rejected the pleas of the rebel Congress MLAs against the Speaker.
February 19, 2016 – President’s Rule lifted in the state
February 20, 2016 – Dissident leader Kalikho Pul was sworn in as the ninth Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh with the support of 18 rebel Congress MLAs, and two Independents and 11 BJP MLAs who gave outside support. Pul’s swearing-in came a day after the Supreme Court vacated its interim order to maintain status quo in the Arunachal Pradesh assembly, paving the way for government formation.
February 23, 2016 – The Supreme Court observed that it was empowered to “set the clock back” if there were constitutional violations in the manner in which the Arunachal Pradesh Governor issued orders that have eventually led to formation of a new government in the state.
February 25, 2016 – Pul won the vote of confidence without any opposition on the first day of the state assembly session, with 17 Congress MLAs including former chief minister Nabam Tuki remaining absent in the House.
March 3, 2016 – 30 rebel Congress MLAs who sided with CM Pul merged with People’s Party of Arunachal (PPA), leaving no scope for the Congress to take any legal action against them. The merger took place with the CM announcing it at Naharlagun. He said they were “compelled” to take the decision as Congress had “shut all its doors” despite all of them asserting that they continued to belong to it.
May 6, 2016 – Top leaders of the Congress party took out a march from Jantar Mantar against what it called the ‘undemocratic’ policies of the Centre with regard to the imposition of President’s Rule in the states of Arunachal and Uttarakhand. Some of the leaders courted arrest before they were released by the police.
July 13, 2016 – The Supreme Court turned the clock back and restored the Congress government in the state. The court said the Governor’s actions were ‘illegal.’
(With inputs from Utkarsh Anand, Samudra Gupta Kashyap and PTI)