Supreme Court steps-in, teaches Guv Constitution

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It is Arunachal Pradesh Governor JP Rajkhowa who stands in the dock following the unanimous verdict of the five-member Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court. The crisis in the state was caused almost wholly by him when he advanced the date for the trial of strength in the House from January 14, 2016, to December 16, 2015.
It was Rajkhowa who liberally gave Nabam Tuki a month’s time to prove his majority when the Opposition raised doubts on this score. Having given time, he should have stuck to the schedule. True, a mass-scale defection happened in the Congress legislature party and he did not want the minority government to continue. But, had Rajkhowa allowed Tuki to remain, he would have been voted out on January 14. The Supreme Court has been taking a consistent stand that the only forum in which a government’s majority could be tested is the floor of the House. Governor in his abundant wisdom has the power to give a reasonable time to the government to prove its majority. Once it is exercised, he cannot advance or postpone it.
It is on this principle that the court has restored the status quo as it existed on December 15 and allowed Tuki to resume power. In doing so, it has clearly defined role of the Governor-his powers are limited to choosing who should form the government, based on the Constitution, and ensuring floor test, if a government falls short of majority.
Hopefully, in the future, no Governor will cross this Lakshman Rekha and play politics. Significantly, the apex court has also made it clear that the Speaker, if his own position is challenged, cannot disqualify legislators as per his whims and fancies. As far as Arunachal Pradesh is concerned, though the Congress has every reason to rejoice, it will be a Herculean task for its chief minister to continue in office. Taking the cue from the court, now all parties concerned must desist from horse-trading and restore public faith in the constitutional process.

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