SC closure on Arunachal constitutional crisis case hurts Congress

The SC ruling, which held the actions of the Arunachal Pradesh governor J.P. Rajkhowa as unconstitutional, was also a major setback to the Centre


In a hearing, which lasted only 10 minutes, the Supreme Court dismissed three writ petitions challenging the imposition of President’s rule in the state. Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint
In a hearing, which lasted only 10 minutes, the Supreme Court dismissed three writ petitions challenging the imposition of President’s rule in the state. Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint

New Delhi: The constitutional crisis case in Arunachal Pradesh had a closure in the Supreme Court on Thursday.

In a hearing, which lasted only 10 minutes, the apex court dismissed three writ petitions challenging the imposition of President’s rule in the state.

The tussle between the Indian National Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which lasted about six months was one of the biggest political battles that played out in courts this year.

The hearing came just days after the Congress lost its chief minister and 43 MLAs to the People’s Party of Arunachal (PPA), which is seen as having ‘friendly ties’ with the BJP.

A bench comprising justices J.S. Khehar and Dipak Mishra dismissed the pleas—one by lone Congress MLA and two-time chief minister Nabam Tuki, challenging imposition of President’s rule by the Centre in Arunachal on 26 January.

A five-judge constitution bench had asked the Centre to maintain status quo on the proclamation of president’s rule but later retracted the order on 17 February, setting the stage for formation of a new government led by Kalikho Pul.

Rajesh Tacho and Bamang Felix, two other MLAs from Anini and Nyapin constituencies, respectively, also moved the apex court against the President’s rule.

The story, replete with twists and turns of a whodunit, played out with former governor J.P. Rajkhowa advancing dates of the assembly session and calling for removal of the Speaker Nabam Rebia.

Justices J.S. Khehar, Dipak Misra, Madan B. Lokur, P.C. Ghose and N.V. Ramana then ruled on the contours of the power and discretion of the governor under the constitution. The hearings, which lasted for over a month, saw heated arguments by senior counsels Fali Nariman, Kapil Sibal for Congress leaders and T.R. Andhyarujina, Harish Salve, Rakesh Dwivedi among others for the BJP leaders and Governor Rajkhowa.

Subsequently, the Centre roped in Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi .

Thursday’s hearing was nowhere close to that spectacle.

With Congress lawyers giving the hearing a miss, it took less than a few minutes for the court to start dictating the order and everyone knew which way it was going.

“It is a circus. Someone dies and now this party has nobody,” Rohatgi said before the hearing ended.

Politically, the ruling, which held the actions of the governor as unconstitutional, was a major setback to the Centre. Congress president Sonia Gandhi had said that the court had ‘re-written history’ for restoring its government in the border state.

Kalikho Pul, who was replaced as chief minister by Pema Khandu was found dead in his residence a month from then.

Congress’s pyrrhic victory in court came crashing with the mass defection all its 44 MLAs except Tuki.

The constitutional crisis, the case and the Congress in Arunachal Pradesh have all been given a quiet burial.

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