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Arunachal prez rule may now finally end, as SC hands matter back to HC

The Supreme Court today cleared the decks for the revocation of President’s Rule in Arunachal Pradesh as it vacated its own order of status quo that it had passed yesterday.

The bench, headed by Justice JS Khehar, opened the sealed cover it had received from the Gauhati high court regarding the disqualification matter and found there was prima facie ground to stay the disqualification of 14 MLAs by the ousted speaker.

The apex court found that the MLAs had not been served notices, which means their allegation that natural justice was violated may be valid.

“Having seen the original record, which was sent to us by the registrar general of the high court of Gauhati, we are satisfied that the interim order passed by the high court dated 7 January, 2016 calls for no interference at this stage. Accordingly, the interim order (of status quo) passed on 17 February is vacated,” said the order passed on Thursday.

The high court’s 7 January interim order had come on the petition by the then deputy speaker T Norbu Thongdok.

As senior counsel Fali Nariman appearing for former speaker Nabam Rebia told the court that entries in the peon book would establish that notices were sent to the 14, Justice Dipak Misra, of the bench, said: “If we take entry in peon book and accept that notice was sent, that will be catastrophic.”

The court asked the Gauhati High Court to hear the plea, pending before it, against the disqualification of 14 rebel Congress lawmakers.

The apex court had summoned the original records on Wednesday which reached it on Thursday and were taken up during its post lunch sitting.

The constitution bench, which also comprised Justice Madan B Lokur, Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghosh and Justice NV Ramana directed that a division bench (comprising two judges) of the high court would hear the disqualification matter from 22 February and conclude the hearing in two weeks.

It said that “all contentions as are available to the rival parties are kept open”.

The court further said that “any action taken in the meantime, shall abide by the final outcome of the controversy”. Any action would also include the formation of new government.

Prior to the passing of the order, Nariman told the court that under assembly rules there was no requirement of issuing notice, but senior counsel R Dwivedi told the court that there are provisions that mandates the issuance of notice and affording a reasonable opportunity to those lawmakers whose membership is sought to be terminated under the anti-defection law.

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