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SC notice in 5-lawyer plea with Sibal to remove MP governor over Vyapam scam

The Supreme Court on Friday issued notice to Madhya Pradesh Governor Ram Naresh Yadav on a plea seeking his removal for his alleged involvement in forest guard recruitment scam - one of the cases in the Vyapam scam.

The apex court bench of Chief Justice HL Dattu, Justice Shiva Kirti Singh and Justice Amitava Roy issued the notice to Yadav even as senior counsel MN Krishnamani told the court that notice could not be issued to the governor as he was protected and enjoyed immunity under Article 361 of the Constitution.

Directing the listing of the matter after winter break, the apex court told Krishnamani that he could seek the recall of the order if he felt that it was flawed.

The notice, returnable in three weeks, has also been issued to the central government.

Gwalior-based petitioner lawyers Sanjay Shukla, Sanjay Kumar Mishra, Manas Dubey, Rajeev Sharma and Uma Charan Sharma have sought direction to the central government to initiate a “proposal for the withdrawal of pleasure of the President under Article 156(1) of the Constitution of India for facilitating removal of a Ram Naresh Yadav as governor of Madhya Pradesh”.

While seeking the removal of the governor, the petitioners’ lawyers - senior counsel Kapil Sibal and Vivek Tankha - urged the court to lay down the “guidelines for removal/withdrawal of pleasure of the president in cases of physical or mental disability, acts of corruption or moral turpitude or behaviour unbecoming of a governor”.

Sibal and Tankha assisted by advocates Varun Tankha, Sumeer Sodhi and Aman Nandrajog urged the court to issue notice to Governor Yadav who has been made a party in person even as Krishnamani opposed the plea.

The apex court on 9 July issued notice to Yadav on the plea that challenged the Madhya Pradesh High Court order quashing the FIR against the governor for his alleged involvement in forest guard recruitment scam on the grounds that he enjoyed immunity of the constitutional office he was occupying.

The petitioners - who happen to be the same Gwalior-based lawyers who have in their writ petition sought direction to the Centre to remove Yadav as governor - contended that the high court had clearly abdicated all the principles of criminal law laid down by the apex court in scotching the FIR against Governor Yadav on the grounds that he was protected by Article 361 of the Constitution.

The petitioners’ lawyers have contended that this could not be the possible interpretation of Article 361 by any stretch of imagination.

Seeking the removal of the governor, the petitioners contended that the immunity under Article 361 was not absolute which would come in the way of the prosecuting him for committing alleged cognizable offence.

The immunity from criminal prosecution that a person enjoys while occupying the office of governor should cease to operate the moment the acts of misdemeanour shadowing him, either of past or present, surfaces, the petition said.

The petitioners’ lawyers have contended that a person occupying the office of governor must be “above suspicion” and “must possess a pristine antecedents” as he is endowed with the power to appoint high dignitaries including the high court judges and the chief minister.

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