New Delhi: Embattled Arunachal Pradesh Governor J P Rajkhowa today strongly 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, even as the Supreme Court observed that he cannot take away the House's discretion on the basis of "mere apprehension".
Terming the political situation in the "sensitive border" state as "chronic and chaotic", Rajkhowa's counsel 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?"
A five-judge constitution bench headed by Justice J S Khehar reiterated its objection, saying the Governor may advance assembly session but he cannot take away "discretion of the House" to "discuss, debate and decide" any issue.
"There are two aspects to it, that is whether the resolution (to remove the Speaker) is debated upon and decided is upto his discretion or the discretion of the House. How can you (Governor) ask them to deal it as the first agenda?... Who is he to say this. Therefore, by saying so, he has taken away discretion of the House," the bench, also comprising Justices Dipak Misra, M B Lokur, P C Ghose and N V Ramana, said.
It also said that the Governor cannot act on mere apprehension and has to apply his "intellect" so that the "sanctity of democracy remains".
"The Governor cannot act on mere apprehension. He has the right to play under the Constitution, as constitutional discipline warrants that the sanctity of democracy remains," it said.
Senior advocate T R Andhyarujina, appearing for Rajkhowa, began the arguments by referring to the sequence of events and alleged "arm-twisting tactics" adopted by the Tuki government in its attempt to rein in 21 revolting MLAs and said there was little scope for judicial review of the discretionary decisions taken by him.
The bench, examining constitutional schemes on the scope of discretionary powers of the Governor and his actions to advance the assembly session, also said, "not only the Governor but any prudent man will apply his intellect before acting on a complaint or an apprehension.
At the outset, Andhyarujina referred to a meeting of Congress MLAs called at the behest of the then Chief Minister on September 16 at Itanagar and alleged that the rebel MLAs were forced to sign on blank papers and later, they became resignation letters.
Moreover, the legislature party meeting was also attended by the assembly Speaker, he said, asking "what business the Speaker has got to attend the meeting?"
"The MLAs had written letters against the Speaker alleging that he was hand in gloves with the Chief Minister ... The Governor was compelled to exercise his power, because there was an apprehension that the Speaker may disqualify the revolting MLAs to get good majority in the house," he said, adding that it created a situation for the Governor to act prudently.
The bench then observed that "Democracy is a paramount. It is duty of a constitutional body to see that democracy remains in place. The Governor's duty is to keep the democracy running and not to make a dent on it."
The senior lawyer, who would continue with his arguments tomorrow, also referred to the purported resignation letters of two rebel Congress MLAs which were accepted by the Speaker, to drive home the point about the alleged collusion between the Speaker and the Chief Minister.
He also said that when the Chief Minister came to meet the Governor, some Congress leaders also abused Rajkhowa.
"They (Tuki's cabinet colleagues) physically assaulted the Governor and locked the Legislative assembly," Andhyarujina said, adding that this was "not to be tolerated".
"What kind of democracy is this where a Governor was assaulted. This has never happened anywhere," he said.
"It was the talk of the town. The turmoil in the state was such that the Governor had sent letters to the President on it," the Governor's counsel submitted, adding that the then Speaker has even manipulated resignation letters of two MLAs.
"The state is near the sensitive border. It was necessary for the Governor to step in and hence, he did the right thing as per his discretion," he said.
The bench also referred to the Governor's letter on summoning the assembly session and fixing the agenda for the house and said "the discretion of the House has been taken away by the Governor. Who is he to take that away?"
The Governor is putting up his version in the case, despite the apex court withdrawing its notice to him.