Saturday, December 19, 2015

[Editorial #18] Unseemly turn in Arunachal Pradesh: The Hindu

The saddest aspect of the political turmoil in Arunachal Pradesh is that its key actors have revived unedifying practices that one would have thought the Indian polity had left behind some years ago: dissident ruling party legislators joining hands with their political rivals to bring down an elected government, holding parallel or unauthorised Assembly proceedings, and the Governor playing a partisan role. The conduct of Governor J.P. Rajkhowa in the ongoing crisis facing the Nabam Tuki government, set off by a group of ruling Congress MLAs revolting against his leadership, is questionable. In S.R. Bommai in 1994, the Supreme Court decided that the only place for determining whether a Chief Minister has lost his majority is the floor of the House, and not the Raj Bhavan. When it appeared that Mr. Tuki had lost the support of many of the legislators, the Governor could have either asked him to prove his majority when the Assembly met on January 14, 2016, or, if the matter brooked no delay, requested him to advance the session for the same purpose. There was no justification for the Governor to advance the session to December 16 on his own, and a legitimate question arises whether the Constitution permits such action. In another partisan act, he sent a message to the House to take up ‘Resolution for removal of the Speaker’ as the first item on the agenda.
The Congress has been ruling the State with the support of 47 MLAs in the 60-member Assembly, but 20 ruling party legislators have rallied under former Minister Kalikho Pul and joined hands with the 11-member Bharatiya Janata Party group in a bid to unseat Mr. Tuki. They accuse the Chief Minister of financial mismanagement and corruption. In a pre-emptive move against the rebels convening the Assembly on the Governor’s order, the government locked down the legislature building and the Speaker disqualified 14 out of the 20 dissidents to bring down the number required for a majority. Disqualification under the anti-defection law is subject to judicial review and the rebels could have challenged the Speaker’s decision. Instead, showing unseemly hurry, the Deputy Speaker, a dissident himself, ‘revoked’ their disqualification. All the rebels, along with the BJP and independent MLAs, held a sitting of the ‘Assembly’ at a makeshift venue, and ‘removed’ the Speaker and then the Chief Minister through a ‘no-confidence motion’. With the Guwahati High Court keeping in abeyance all the decisions taken at the rebel ‘session’, and sharply questioning the Governor’s action in convening the Assembly, the rest of the crisis may play out in a courtroom. Nevertheless, it would be a travesty of democracy if the current crisis results in the imposition of President’s Rule without Mr. Tuki being given an opportunity to prove his majority on the floor of the House. The Centre should avoid any impression that constitutional norms will not be respected while handling the issue.
1. What is S. R. Bommai case of 1994?
2. What is understood by No Confidence Movement?
3. How is Speaker of the Legislative Assembly elected?
4. How can a Speaker of the Assembly be removed?
5. What is the role of Deputy Speaker?
6. What is meant by President's rule?
7. What is Anti-defection Law? When and why was it passed?
8. Mention some instances when President's rule was implemented in any state?
9. What are Supreme Court Verdicts with regards to imposition of President's rule?
10. How is Governor of a state appointed?


  1. The S.R Bommai vs Union of India case was a landmark judgement of the Supreme Court of India on the issue of imposition of constitutional emergency/President's rule in a state under Article 356 of the constitution. This judgement brought to an end the misuse of Article 356 and heavily impacted the Centre-State relations. The verdict of the Supreme Court was that the facts as to whether the Chief Minister of State had lost his majority was to be decided only on the floor of the Assembly and in the Raj Bhavan. The facts of the case are as follows :
    In Karnataka, the Janata Party had obtained majority in the State Legislature and hence formed the government under the leadership of S.R.Bommai. In 1988 the Janata Party formed and alliance with the Lok Dal and formed a new party called the Janata Dal. The Ministry was expanded to the tune of 31 ministers. However soon after, K.R.Molakery , an MLA defected from the Janata Dal and subsequently presented a petition signed by 19 other legislators who had withdrawn their support to the ruling party. The Governor therefore communicated to the President that in the face of severe dissensions within the government , the S.R.Bommai government had seemingly lost its majority in the House and therefore recommended that the President should impose the provisions of Article 356(1) in the State to prevent an crisis of governance from emerging. Consequently, the legislators who had supposedly signed the petition withdrawing their support to government, came out in opposition claiming that their support for this petition had been obtained through mala-fide tactics and misinformation. Despite the fact that the Chief Minister then insisted on proving his majority on the floor of the House in a constitutionally acceptable manner , the Governor repeated his demand for imposition of President's rule in the state. The President then subsequently evoked Artciel 356 and imposed President's Rule in Karnataka.
    As a result of the afore mentioned proceedings, the Supreme Court contested certain provisions of the Constitution. The Supreme Court contended as to whether imposition of President's rule in a state is justiciable and whether the President has unfettered powers to impose President's rule in a state . The Supreme Court contended that since President's Rule is imposed on the request of the Governor on the advice of the Council of Ministers as under Article 74(1), and sicne the reasons for such advice cannot be disclosed according to the provisions of this article, as a direct consequence, the decision of the President also cannot be subjected to judicial review.

  2. A no -confidence motion is a vote or a statement that a government official(s), no longer enjoys the support of the majority of the Parliament and that he/she is deemed unfit to continue with his respective position. It states that the person under question has either failed to carry out the duties and obligations of his post satisfactorily, or has engaged in misuse of his powers or has proved to be inadequate in some other respect. It demonstrates to the head of state that the elected parliament ( Lok Sabha) no longer has confidence in the person(s)of the appointed government. The no confidence motion may refer to only a single or few persons but is in fact targeted at the entire council of ministers. If a no-confidence motion is passed against the Prime Minister of India, the entire council of Ministers must necessarily resign from their positions and the government will be dissolved.

  3. The Speaker of the Legislative Assembly( Vidhan Sabha ) is elected by the members of the Legislative Assembly from amongst themselves. The Speaker is the politically neutral chairman of the House and he presides over the meetings of the House as well as conducts its proceedings. The authority of the Speaker in the State Legislative Assembly is supreme and every member of the house is to respect it.

  4. The Speaker is removed through a no- confidence motion by the members of the State Legislative Assembly.

  5. 5. The Deputy Speaker is also similarly elected by the members of the Legislative Assembly from amongst themselves. The Deputy Speaker simply performs the functions of the Speaker in case of his absence, death or resignation.
    6. Article 356(1) provides for imposition of President's Rule in a state. If the Governor is of the opinion that the normal government cannot be conducted in the state either due to the loss of majority support for the ruling party and leader or due to internal disturbances, the Governor may express this communication to the President and request for imposition of President's rule in the state. In such a scenario, the State Legislative Assembly is dissolved and the administration and governance of the state os conducted directly by the Centre. The Centre takes over the responsibility for making laws on the subjects of the State List and the Governor of the state becomes the de facto leader, or the head of the state government for the period of constitutional emergency. However elections to constitute a new Legislative Assembly must be held before six months after the end of emergency.
    7. The Anti Defection Law 1985, was passed during the tenure of Rajiv Gandhi as Prime Minister in response to the increasing incidence of illegal defections of party personnel. The 52nd Amendment Act brought about the Anti-defection law by adding a new schedule, the Tenth Schedule into the Constitution. It comprises of the provisions as to the disqualification on account of defection as defined by certain specific circumstances. The circumstances/actions which are considered as defections are as follows : a) If a person voluntarily resigns his membership of a political party b) If he abstains from voting or votes against the party whip/direction. c) If an independent member who is elected to a seat joins a political party post the elections . d) A member who has been elected as legislator on the ticket of on party joins another party after election on the previous party's ticket. The Act also specifies the exemptions that are granted to the issue of defection : a) If a split occurs in a political party wherein one-third or more members voluntarily separate from the parent party, it will not be considered as defection. b) If two or more parties are merging together then it is not considered as a defection. c) The Speaker or Deputy Speaker is not considered to have defected if he/she resigns membership of their party after being elected to the respective positions.