Free Press Journal

Governors are immune, SC concedes; Recalls notice to Rajkhowa


J P Rajkhowa

New Delhi: The Supreme Court today conceded its “mistake” and recalled its notice issued to Arunachal Pradesh Governor Jyoti Prasad Rajkhowa in cases arising out of imposition of President’s Rule in the political crisis-hit hill state.

After considering its earlier verdict and the legal position that the Governor enjoys “complete immunity” in court proceedings, a five-judge Constitutional bench headed by Justice J S Khehar said “that (issuing notice) is our mistake.” The bench made the remark at the outset when Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi pointed out the legal position and referred to a 2006 judgement which had held that Governors cannot be asked to join legal proceedings.

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Referring to Rohatgi’s contention that Governors have “complete immunity” under Article 361 of the Constitution, it said, “We consider is just and appropriate to recall the notice issued to Respondent 2 (the Governor).”

The bench, also comprising Justices Dipak Misra, M B Lokur, P C Ghose and N V Ramana, however, clarified that its order recalling the notice would not “preclude” the Arunachal Governor from filing or putting forth his views before it.

It also said that earlier senior advocate Satpal Jain, appearing for the Governor, had undertaken, in pursuance of court’s direction, to file materials leading to recommendation of President’s Rule. The Attorney General, during the hearing, said either the leaders including Rajesh Tacho and Nabam Rebia agree to delete the name of the Governor from their respective pleas or he would cite the legal position and the case law on the issue.

“We can recall the notice, if we have committed the mistake,” the bench said. “Having given a thoughtful consideration to the issue in hand, we are inclined to recall the notice. That, however, would not preclude the Governor from filing or putting forth his views before it,” the bench said.

It, meanwhile, issued notice to the Centre on fresh pleas of former Chief Minister Nabam Tuki and Congress leader Bamang Felix against imposition of President’s Rule.

Initially, the bench expressed reluctance in issuing the notice, saying the issues raised in fresh pleas were similar. Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for Tuki, said that certain allegations have been made against the former Chief Minister and hence a fresh plea has been filed.

Earlier, the Centre had justified the imposition of President’s Rule saying there was “complete breakdown” of governance and law and order in the state where the Governor and his family apprehended “grave danger to their lives”.

The Ministry of Home Affairs, in the affidavit, alleged that the Chief Minister and Speaker Nabam Rebia have been playing “communal politics” against the Governor who in his reports had recommended imposition of President’s Rule by elaborating sequence of events leading the Congress government becoming a minority.