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Governor can't take away Speaker's powers, says Supreme Court

Governor can
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The Supreme Court on Thursday critically examined a decision of Arunachal Pradesh Governor J P Rajkhowa ordering maintenance of the party-wise position of MLAs in the assembly and said he had \"no role to play\" in it, as the anti-defection aspect fell under the domain of the Speaker.

The Supreme Court on Thursday critically examined a decision of Arunachal Pradesh Governor J P Rajkhowa ordering maintenance of the party-wise position of MLAs in the assembly and said he had "no role to play" in it, as the anti-defection aspect fell under the domain of the Speaker.

"How can the Governor take away the constitutional powers of the Speaker to disqualify lawmakers on the grounds of defection? The Governor may have some role in the functioning of the assembly, but he has no role to play in issues prescribed in the Tenth Schedule (anti-defection provision) of the Constitution," a five-judge Constitution Bench headed by Justice J S Khehar said.

Observing that democracy was part of the basic structure of the Constitution, the bench said, hence, any "undemocratic" decision would be open to judicial review.

"Democracy is a basic structure of the Constitution and if some decisions are anti-democratic, it is the subject matter of judicial review," the bench, also comprising Justices Dipak Misra, Madan B Lokur, P C Ghose and N V Ramana, said.

Senior advocate T R Andhyarijuna, appearing for Rajkhowa, defended the Governor's decisions saying when the Speaker was under clout and part of a conspiracy with the state government, the Governor exercised his discretionary power which is "undefined" in the Constitution. He also said such an exercise of discretionary powers leaves hardly any scope for judicial scrutiny.

Andhyarujina also said the Governor's act may be "questionable", but he is not "answerable".

"The Governor has three kinds of powers under the Constitution. He has to act on aid and advice of the Chief Minister and his Council of Ministers. Second, he has discretion... Third, (his) power is undefined," he said.

During the hearing, the bench said the Governor may have the power to summon and advance the sitting of the House, but he cannot ask that a particular party-wise composition be maintained, as it would amount to interference in the working sphere of the Speaker.

"Is the Speaker prohibited under the law not to accept the resignation of legislators," the bench asked when one of the lawyers raised the manner in which the resignations of rebel Congress MLAs were accepted. The court also said its observations are "tentative" in nature.

The Governor's stand was supported by senior advocate Ashok Desai, who represented 10 MLAs of Arunachal Pradesh including the Leader of Opposition. He said "the Governor's decisions are final, which should not be questioned... There are numerous letters, which point towards the nexus between the Chief Minister Nabam Tuki and then Speaker Nabam Rebia."

"Is the letter, which you are reading, enough for declaration for emergency in the state," the bench said.

The bench also said if the Chief Minister loses majority, the Governor, at best, can ask him to go for a floor test. In any case, there is a "constitutional command that the House will have to meet within six months. If they (the assembly) meet, the Governor has nothing to do...," it said.

Meanwhile, Desai took the bench through the sequence of political events leading to the imposition of the President's rule in the state. The bench is examining the constitutional provisions on the scope of discretionary powers of the Governor. The court would now resume hearing on February 15.

On Wednesday, embattled Rajkhowa defended his actions of advancing assembly session and fixing its agenda claiming that the Chief Minister and the Speaker were "hand-in-glove" and trying to remain in power despite losing majority.

Terming the political situation in the "sensitive border" state as "chronic and chaotic", Rajkhowa's counsel had said, "the Speaker (Nabam Rebia) was under the clout and was hand-in-glove with the Chief Minister (Nabam Tuki).

"The Governor apprehended that the biased Speaker would act in support of the Chief Minister... It was not justified to wait till January 14 this year, so he advanced the session to December 16. This was done for the public cause and in their interest. What was wrong in that," the counsel said.

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