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SC restores Congress rule in Arunachal, opposition flays Modi

SC restores Congress rule in Arunachal, opposition flays Modi

New Delhi: In a major setback to the Centre, the Supreme Court on Wednesday restored ousted Congress Chief Minister Nabam Tuki in Arunachal Pradesh, elating the opposition, which hailed the verdict as a victory for democracy.

In an unanimous verdict, a Constitution bench of Justices J.S. Khehar, Dipak Misra, Madan B. Lokur, Pinaki Chandra Ghosh and N.V. Ramana directed the restoration of the status quo ante as it existed on December 15, 2015, effectively bringing Tuki back as the Chief Minister.

The court quashed Governor J.P. Rajkhowa's decision to advance the assembly session by a month and said the Governor "cannot interfere in the activities of the Assembly".

The court quashed President's Rule imposed in the state and all the decisions taken by Governor J.P. Rajkhowa leading to its imposition.

On December 16, the Nabam Tuki government was dismissed in an Assembly session called by the Governor. The bench called the actions of Governor Rajkhowa as "illegal" and violative of the Constitutional provisions.

Commenting on the Supreme Court's verdict, Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said that the government will study 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 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.

Prasad dismissed that "there was any law mismanagement" by the Centre in the case.

In Guwahati, Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Kalikho Pul maintained that 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 Chief Minister and Congress leader Harish Rawat in Uttarakhand.

He met Congress President Sonia Gandhi after the court verdict.

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 Union 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 Supreme 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 Centre, described the Supreme Court 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 CPI-M 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 Communist Party of India-Marxist said.

The Bharatiya Janata Party put up a brave front, saying the ruling was not a setback to it.

The constitution bench quashed the Governor Rajkhowa's December 9, 2015 direction to advance the assembly session from January 14 to December 16, and the message to the State assembly to take up the resolution for removal of Speaker Nebam Rabia as first item of the agenda.

Holding that Governor can't act as an "ombudsman", Justice Khehar pronouncing the main judgment said, "The State Legislature, does not function under the Governor. In sum and substance, the Governor just cannot act as the Ombudsman of the State Legislature."

The Congress suffered a jolt when 21 of its legislators rebelled. Eleven BJP legislators backed the rebels. Later, 14 of the rebel Congress lawmakers were disqualified.

The Governor advanced the state assembly session, in which opposition legislators and the rebels "removed" Tuki and Speaker Nabam Rebia in a session held in a community centre and a hotel.

In 2014 elections the Congress had won 42 seats in the 60-member assembly.

The Peoples Party of Arunachal, which had only five members in 2014, now has 30 members including Congress rebels. The BJP has 11 members in the house.

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