In a major setback to the central government, the Supreme Court yesterday restored ousted Congress Chief Minister Nabam Tuki in Arunachal Pradesh.
The opposition hailed the verdict as a victory for democracy.
In a unanimous verdict, a Constitution bench of Justices J S Khehar, Dipak Misra, Madan B Lokur, Pinaki Chandra Ghosh and N V Ramana ordered the restoration of the status quo ante as it existed on December 15, 2015, effectively bringing Tuki back as chief minister.
The court quashed President’s Rule imposed on the state and all the decisions taken by Governor J P Rajkhowa leading to its imposition.
On December 16, the Tuki government was dismissed in an assembly session called by the governor. The bench called the actions of Rajkhowa as “illegal” and violative of the Constitutional provisions.
Federal Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the government will study the Supreme Court judgment in detail before making any reaction.
He said the court had ordered status quo ante from December 15 and a lot of developments have taken place after that, including the withdrawal of President’s Rule and swearing-in of a new government under Kalikho Pul.
“What requires to be done requires detailed consideration,” Prasad said.
He dismissed that “there was any law mismanagement” by the central government in the case.
Pul, who was in Guwahati, said there was “no threat” to his government and he will file a review petition in the Supreme Court.
He said a floor test would prove the numbers backing his government. “The government runs only with numbers. There is no threat to our government. That will be decided on the floor of the assembly.”
A visibly pleased Tuki described the Supreme Court judgment as a “historic verdict” and said the ruling would help protect “healthy democracy” in the country. “This is a historic and remarkable judgment.”
“According to the judgment, our government has been restored,” Tuki said. “I’ll go to the state and talk to all the 47 Congress MLAs. We will call a meeting.”
It is the second such ruling by the Supreme Court since May when it similarly restored the ousted government of Congress leader Harish Rawat in Uttarakhand.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi, welcoming the Supreme Court verdict, hoped the ruling would deter the central government from further misusing its power.
“The verdict will deter the government from any further misuse of power. Those who had trampled upon constitutional propriety and democratic norms have been defeated,” she said.
Taking on the Modi government, Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi thanked the court for “explaining to the prime minister what democracy is.”
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, who has been locked in bitter turf battles with the Bharatiya Janata Party-led central government, described the judgment as a “tight slap on (the) dictatorial Modi government.”
“Hope Modiji would learn and now stop interfering in democratically elected governments,” the Aam Aadmi Party leader tweeted.
The Communist Party of India (Marxist) urged the Modi government to “stop its growing authoritarian tendency of invoking central rule in states” ruled by non-BJP parties.
“Following the Uttarakhand experience, this judgment poses an irrevocable question of political morality and accountability of this BJP-led central government,” the party said.
The BJP put up a brave front, saying the ruling was not a setback.
The Constitution bench also quashed the direction of Governor Rajkhowa on the manner and the order in which the advanced session of the state assembly conducted its business.