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Court Cuts: When a judge’s ‘naughty smile’ disposed of 3 challenges to President’s rule in just 3 minutes

Could this be Justice Misra's 'naughty smile by any chance?
Could this be Justice Misra's 'naughty smile by any chance?

A Supreme Court bench of justices JS Khehar and Dipak Misra today disposed of three writ petitions challenging President’s rule in Arunachal Pradesh, which was imposed on 26 January, as infructuous.

The bench took just three minutes to do so.

As the judges assembled at 3:45 pm at Court No 3, Justice Khehar could be seen smiling at those assembled including the Attorney General, Mukul Rohatgi, as if it was all a formality.

Once Justice Khehar dictated the order disposing of the petitions, he turned to Justice Dipak Misra, who was still smiling. He then told the court, saying: “My colleague is having a naughty smile. Anyway, let me ask him about it later.”

At that point Justice Khehar noticed that the AG was trying to say something. When Khehar asked the AG to say it, Rohatgi answered: “It is all a circus. Somebody dies, and this party has nobody.”

Khehar quipped, not missing a beat: “That is politics.”

The writ petitions, filed by the then chief whip of the Congress Party in Arunachal Pradesh, Rajesh Tacho, the former chief minister, Nabam Tuki, and the then Government spokesman, Bamang Felix, against the imposition of President’s rule on 26 January in the state, were taken up for hearing only today.

In January, the five-judge Constitution Bench was hearing the petitions challenging the action of the then Governor, Jyoti Prasad Rajkhowa, in advancing the assembly session by one month, so that Tuki could demonstrate his majority. The bench had then felt that it would hear the three writ petitions challenging the President’s rule later, if necessary.

The bench did not find it necessary to rule on the merits of the President’s rule, as the ousted Government was in any case, restored to office.

Meanwhile, President’s rule was revoked on 19 February, paving the way for the swearing in of a rebel leader, Kalikho Pul as the chief minister. Subsequently, the Constitution bench restored Tuki to the office of the chief minister.

But Tuki resigned, followed by the rise of Pema Khandu as the new chief minister, who brought about unity within the ruling Congress.

Tragically, the interim chief minister, Pul committed suicide, unable to reconcile to the loss of his office to Tuki, and then to Khandu, following the Supreme court’s verdict.

Ironically, the ruling Congress suffered another setback recently when the entire Congress legislature party, except Tuki, merged with the Arunachal People’s Party, which enjoys the support of the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, with Khandu continuing to be the chief minister.

These successive and dramatic developments in the state politics crossed the minds of the Judges as well as those assembled in the court room, when the case was consigned to the archives as a formality, today.

Quite naturally, the judges and counsel present could not avoid a “naughty smile” over the initial excitement in the case caused by the tumultuous developments in January, only to lead to a quiet burial in late September, as a result of the quicksand of politics.

Unfortunately, none of the high-profile senior advocates who represented the petitioners in January were present today to witness the “naughty smile” among the judges.

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