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SCOI Analysis: Prez rule in Arunachal leaves both BJP and Cong embarrassed before SC

Arunachal Pradesh assembly: Temporarily kaputt
Arunachal Pradesh assembly: Temporarily kaputt

The case Nabam Rebia vs Registrar General, Gauhati High Court, will be heard at 2pm tomorrow (27 January) before the five-judge Constitution bench in Court No 3.

The hearing in this case has assumed significance with the President Pranab Mukherjee signing the proclamation to bring Arunachal Pradesh under President’s rule, as he is satisfied that the Government in the state cannot be run in accordance with the Constitution.

The ruling Congress party in the state, through its chief whip in the assembly, Rajesh Tacho, has filed a fresh petition challenging the imposition of President’s rule, which, in all likelihood, will be heard along with the other petitions.

As the assembly has been kept under suspended animation, other petitions challenging the Governor’s power to summon the assembly session without the aid and advice of the council of ministers, and disqualification of MLAs by the Deputy Speaker will not become infructuous.

The imposition of President’s rule under Article 356, on the ground that Article 174(1) stood violated in the state raises an interesting question.

Under Article 174(1), the Governor shall from time to time summon the House or each House of the Legislature of the State to meet at such time and place as he thinks fit, but six months shall not intervene between its last sitting in one session and the date appointed for its first sitting in the next session.

The Union Cabinet, which had approved the President’s rule, contended that the assembly in Arunachal Pradesh had not met for the past six months.

The one called by the Governor, and held outside the assembly building, and presided over by the Deputy Speaker on 16 December, apparently is not recognized by the Central Government.

This means that the Union of India is backing the petitioner-the Speaker of the assembly, Nabam Rebia – who is before the Supreme Court challenging the holding of this very session on 16 December.

The Congress too has tied itself in knots

Having contested the validity of the 16 December assembly session summoned by the Governor, the Congress party will be compelled to concede its validity, because failure to do so would mean that six months had intervened since the last day of the previous session.

For the Supreme Court, the case offers virgin territory.

In Special Reference No.1 of 2002, (the Gujarat Assembly election matter), the Supreme Court’s Constitution bench had held that Article 172(1) is mandatory for a live assembly, but avoided going into the issue whether the Central Government could invoke Article 356, if the assembly does not meet for its next session within six months of the last day of the previous session.

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