Photo: Mint
Photo: Mint

Arunachal case: Breakdown of communication unfortunate, says SC

Supreme Court says the President can and must intervene in case of a complete breakdown of communication between the Governor and the Council of Ministers

New Delhi: The President can and must intervene in case of a complete breakdown of communication between the Governor and the Council of Ministers, as seen in Arunachal Pradesh, to break the impasse and restore constitutional order, the Supreme Court said on Wednesday.

However, such a situation would be “most unfortunate" and “detrimental" to democracy, Justice M.B. Lokur, who concurred with the judgement delivered by Justice J.S. Khehar, said in his separate verdict.

In Arunachal Pradesh, he said there was a complete breakdown of communication between the Governor and the elected Government which led to an unsavory confrontation between them.

“If there is a breakdown in communication between the Council of Ministers and the Governor, then the Governor will not have the benefit of the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers. In that event, the Governor may ‘take the matter into his own hands and act freely.’ “The breakdown of communications was a possibility under the Government of India Act, 1935 since it was ‘in the main undemocratic’ and there could be a breakdown of communications between the representative of His Majesty and the Council of Ministers," he said.

Justice Lokur, however, said “if such a situation were to arise today in independent India, namely, a break-down of communications between the Governor of a State and the Council of Ministers, it would be most unfortunate and detrimental to our democracy. In the unlikely event of a complete break-down of communications, the President can and must intervene to bring in constitutional order."

Dealing with the situation in Arunachal Pradesh, Justice Lokur said the Governor was bound by the advice of Council of Ministers, but if it was not available, he could have resorted to the “breakdown provision" and left it to the President to break the impasse.

Justice Lokur said “the Governor had the advice of the Council of Ministers but chose to ignore it; he assumed (well before the advice was tendered) that the advice would be such that he might not be bound by it; the Governor, despite being the ‘first citizen’ of the State, chose to take no steps to break the impasse caused by a collapse of communication between him and the chief minister...."

He noted that the Governor took no step to resort to the breakdown provisions and obtain impartial advice from the President.

“Instead, the Governor acted in a manner not only opposed to a rule of law but also opposed to the rule of law and, therefore, arbitrarily and in a manner that certainly surprises a sense of juridical propriety", Justice Lokur said, adding that “to make matters worse and, in a sense, humiliate the elected government of the day, the Governor did ignore the resolution of the Council of Ministers taken on 14 December 2015 when it was placed before him".

“By this time there was a complete break-down of communications between the Governor and the elected Government and that, among other things, led to an unsavory confrontation between the Governor and some Cabinet Ministers.

“That interpersonal relationships of constitutional functionaries are carried out with such a complete lack of cordiality and gay abandon, is indeed unfortunate. The result is a thrashing given to the Constitution and a spanking to governance. It is precisely to avoid this that the Constituent Assembly invoked the ‘principle of responsible government’," the judge said.

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