Supreme Court Thursday asked Nabam Rebia, allegedly removed by rebel Congress and BJP MLAs from the post of Assembly Speaker in Arunachal Pradesh, to establish maintainability of his plea questioning an administrative order issued by the acting Chief Justice of Gauhati High Court.
“How can you challenge it? This is an administrative order…you will have to first argue on maintainability,” a bench led by Justice J S Khehar told Rebia’s counsel Kapil Sibal. Sibal stressed the urgency of the matter and said the HC will be closed for vacation after Friday. But the bench said he would have to first persuade how an appeal against an administrative order by a HC chief justice is maintainable in law.
Rebia, who has challenged in Gauhati High Court various decisions of the Governor and Deputy Speaker including his removal from the Speaker’s post, alleged the Acting Chief Justice of the High Court “erroneously rejected” his plea, filed on judicial side, in administrative capacity. He had sought recusal of Justice B K Sharma from hearing his plea.
At the outset, the bench suggested to both parties that it may “request” the Acting Chief Justice to set up a division bench to hear the matter and the two judges, mentioned in the petition, will not be part of the new bench.
A battery of senior lawyers including A K Desai, L Nageshwar Rao and Vikas Singh, representing Deputy Speaker and political opponents of Rebia, opposed it.
They said nobody was alleging anything against the judge concerned and setting up of a new bench cannot be done as the Acting Chief Justice of the High Court was the “master of the roaster” who was well within his rights to assign judicial work to a particular bench.
The bench then asked Sibal to establish that Rebia’s plea before it is maintainable.
Rebia was removed from the post of the Speaker by 14 rebel Congress MLAs, disqualified by the Speaker, and BJP MLAs on December 16 in an assembly session presided over by the Deputy Speaker in a Community Hall in Itanagar.
The Deputy Speaker, before removing Rebia from Speaker’s post, had also quashed the disqualification of the rebel Congress legislators.
Later, various decisions of the Governor and the Deputy Speaker were challenged by Rebia in Gauhati High Court which passed an interim order keeping in abeyance the decisions of Governor and Deputy Speaker till February one.
Rebia has now moved the apex court alleging that he had filed an interim application on the judicial side by seeking recusal of Justice B K Sharma from hearing his plea in the High Court.
However, the Acting Chief Justice, on January 4, “has erroneously rejected the Petitioner’s recusal application” which should have been decided by Justice B K Sharma whose recusal was sought, Rebia said in his petition.
“Whether the Hon’ble Acting Chief Justice of Gauhati High Court committed an error by passing an administrative order on an application which was moved on the judicial side (as an interim application) for being listed before Justice B K Sharma?
“Whether the Acting Chief Justice of Gauhati High Court committed an error by taking unto himself the Recusal Application, which ought to have been listed for hearing before Justice B K Sharma,” Rebia asked in his plea.
He also claimed that the plea, filed in the judicial side, was decided by the Acting Chief Justice in his “administrative” capacity.