Arunachal crisis: Supreme Court orders status quo

New Delhi

Hours after the Union Cabinet decided to recommend revocation of President’s Rule in Arunachal Pradesh, Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered maintenance of status quo in the crisis-ridden state Arunachal Pradesh till it examined judicial and assembly records on disqualification of 14 rebel Congress MLAs by former Speaker Nabam Rebia.

The major interim order came after senior lawyers F S Nariman and Kapil Sibal, appearing for Arunachal Congress leaders, sought maintenance of status quo till their plea seeking to restrain Governor J P Rajkhowa from swearing in a new government in Arunachal Pradesh was decided.
The lawyers had not succeeded in this effort yesterday when the five-judge constitution bench headed by Justice J S Khehar had refused to pass an interim order on their plea.

The bench directed the Secretary General of Arunachal Pradesh Assembly and the Gauhati High Court Registry to furnish records on disqualification of the MLAs preferrably by tomorrow.

The cabinet led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi recommended to the President that the central rule be lifted, a day after the top court refused to restrain the state’s governor, JP Rajkhowa, from swearing in a new government.

On Monday, 32 MLAs led by Congress dissident Kalikho Pul had called on Rajkhowa to stake claim to form the government. They comprised 19 Congress rebels, 11 BJP legislators and two independent members in the 60-member assembly.

When the apex court, which is hearing a batch of pleas on constitutional powers of the Governors, resumed proceeding after lunch, senior advocates Fali S Nariman and Kapil Sibal mentioned that Union Cabinet had recommended revocation of President’s Rule in the state. Both senior lawyers Nariman and Sibal requested the bench to consider their plea for interim relief, saying they apprehend that by tomorrow morning a new Chief Minister will be sworn in. Nariman said the Governor had on January 26 dismissed the Chief Minister and his council of ministers even when the assembly was in suspended animation.

Arunachal descended into chaos in December when 21 of the ruling Congress’s 47 MLAs rebelled and 11 BJP legislators backed them in a bid to pull the rug from under the Nabam Tuki government. Later, 14 rebel Congress MLAs were disqualified. The governor then called an assembly session in which the deputy speaker revoked the disqualification of the 14 and removed the speaker. The state finally came under central rule on January 26.

In a last-ditch effort, the Congress has tried to pacify the rebels but they are insistent on Tuki’s removal as legislature party leader. Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi met the dissidents and assured them their “genuine grievances” would be addressed.

Later, senior leaders Kamal Nath and Salman Khurshid held negotiations with them but these, too, failed. The Congress has refused to accept the demand to replace Tuki as chief minister as it would set a wrong precedent, sources said. Tuki is said to have the support of 26 MLAs.

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