Patna: In an apparent setback to Nitish Kumar, who is making a quick bid to become Bihar Chief Minister, the Patna High Court today virtually stayed his recognition as the leader of the JD(U) Legislature Party in place of Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi.
“We intend to examine the legal implication of the letter issued by in-charge Secretary of Assembly (recognising Nitish Kumar as leader of JD(U) Legislature Party) so that the letter should have no legal consequences for a decision by the Governor,” a HC bench said in its order.
The court said it would hear the matter again on Wednesday next. The division bench comprising Chief Justice L N Reddy and Justice Vikash Jain gave the direction on a PIL filed by JD(U) MLA Rajeshwar Raj, who is siding with Manjhi.
The court’s order could come in the way of Kumar’s immediate bid to claim chiefministership with the Governor yet to take a decision on the claims and counterclaims of the two sides.
After a legislature party meeting on Monday in which the JD(U) replaced defiant Chief Minister Manjhi by electing Kumar as JD(U) LP leader, a delegation of leaders including Kumar, RJD President Lalu Prasad, Congress and CPI, met Governor Kesari Nath Tripathi to call Kumar to form a new government.
Shortly later, Manjhi also met the Governor and claimed that he had the majority and that he would prove it in a trial of strength in the Assembly at a time of Governor’s choosing.
The PIL filed by JD(U) MLA, who is a Manjhi supporter, in the Patna High Court challenged the legislature party meeting called by JD(U) National President Sharad Yadav on Saturday which elected Kumar the new JD(U)LP leader in place of Manjhi.
His counsel S B K Mangalam told the court that Speaker Uday Narayan Chaudhry took the decision on recognising Kumar as JD(U)LP leader in the assembly without receiving an advise from the governor. This amounted to usurping the power of the Governor, the counsel said.
Assembly Secretary in-charge Hareram Mukhiya had issued a letter recognising Kumar as leader of the JD(U) Legislature Party on the basis of a letter by state party President Basistha Narayan Singh appending Yadav’s letter on election of Kumar as JD(U)LP leader in place of Manjhi.
Y V Giri, who appeared on behalf of Assembly Secretariat, argued that the PIL was not maintainable as it was a political question and not a legal question which the court should decide.
On this the court said it intended to examine only the legal aspect of the letter. The HC order has come on a day when Kumar with his 130 supporting MLAs of JD(U), RJD, Congress, one CPI and an independent are in Delhi to meet President Pranab Mukherjee to request him for an opportunity to form the government.