IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISIDCTION
CIVIL APPEAL NOS. 6203-6204__OF 2016
(Arising out of SLP(C) Nos. 1259-1260 of 2016)
Nabam Rebia, and Bamang Felix … Appellants
Deputy Speaker and others … Respondents
J U D G M E N T
Jagdish Singh Khehar, J.
1. Leave granted.
2. The 5th session of the Arunachal Pradesh Legislative Assembly (hereinafter referred to as, the Assembly/House) was concluded on 21.10.2015. On 3.11.2015, the Governor issued an order summoning the 6th session of the Assembly, to meet on 14.1.2016 in the Legislative Assembly Chamber at Naharlagun. The instant order was passed by the Governor, on the aid and advice of the Chief Minister, and in consultation with the Speaker of the House. The 6th session of the House was preponed by the Governor from 14.1.2016 to 16.12.2015, by an order dated 9.12.2015 indicating inter alia the manner in which the proceedings of the House should be conducted. In its support, the Governor issued a message on 9.12.2015. These actions of the Governor, according to learned senior counsel for the appellants, demonstrate an extraneous and inappropriate exercise of constitutional authority. The above order and message of the Governor, without the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers and the Chief Minister, constitute the foundation of the challenge raised by the appellants.
3. When hearing in these appeals commenced, the impression given out was, that the sequence of facts relating to the affairs of the House and the MLAs, by itself would be sufficient to establish, that constitutional responsibilities were exercised in such manner, as would be sufficient for this Court to strike down the same. The same position was espoused on behalf of the respondents, who also advocated that the factual background, would establish the legal and constitutional validity of the Governor’s actions. And also, that the Governor had passed the impugned order, and issued the impugned message, bona fide. The narration of facts, therefore assumes significance.
The foundation of the appellants case:
The first sequence of facts:
4. In order to project the correct narrative (as per the understanding, of learned counsel, representing the appellants), towards highlighting the factual position, it was urged, that the political posturing in the State of Arunachal Pradesh, commenced after the Governor – Jyoti Prasad Rajkhowa assumed charge on 1.6.2015.
5. It was suggested, that when the Governor assumed office, there was a brewing discord amongst members of the ruling Indian National Congress (hereinafter referred to as the INC). Only a few days after the Governor took over charge, the President of the Arunachal Pradesh Congress Committee – Padi Richo addressed his first communication to the Chief Minister – Nabam Tuki (on 18.6.2015), inviting his attention to reports received from party workers, regarding breach of party discipline. On the same lines, another letter was addressed by the party President, to the Chief Minister on 1.9.2015. The text of the same is extracted hereunder:
“In reference to my earlier letter no.nil dated 18/6/2015 in connection with reports received from party workers regarding breach of discipline by some of the Congress legislators by their active involvement in anti-party activities, which has been seriously viewed by the AICC and APCC. But despite of that, it has been reported by party functionaries and workers that some of the congress legislators are still actively indulging in indiscipline and various anti-party activities.
Therefore, all the Congress legislators are requested to refrain themselves from indulging in such anti-party activities and maintain party discipline.”
6. It was submitted, that strenuous efforts were ongoing, to quell the intra-party dissidence. It was asserted, that resignation letters of two MLAs belonging to the INC – Wanglam Sawin and Gabriel D. Wangsu were accepted on 6.10.2015, whereupon, they stood removed from the House. The details of the ongoing disruptive activities within the Congress Legislature Party, as also, the involvement of the Governor, was sought to be demonstrated, by placing reliance on two further communications, the first of which (dated 11.10.2015), was addressed by the removed MLAs, to the Governor. A relevant part of the same, is reproduced hereunder:
“Sub: Commission of an enquiry into the forceful resignation.
With great pain and indignation, we the undersigned Members of Legislative Assembly of the Sixth Arunachal Pradesh Legislative Assembly would like to apprise your benign authority about some disturbing, degraded and inglorious conduct of the leader of the Congress Legislative Party-cum-incumbent Chief Minister and his supporters for favour of your kind information and necessary action please;
Your Excellency, on 14th Sept 2015 at around 5 pm, we were repeatedly informed through phone calls requesting us to join “a get-together dinner party”, purportedly on the invitation of Mr. Mama Natung, HMLA, at his residence at Senki View area, Itanagar. Some 18 MLA colleagues from the Congress Party visited his residence for the dinner but were instead asked to join an informal discussion on the prevailing political crisis faced by the Congress led State Government under the Chief Ministership of Mr. Nabam Tuki. All members participated in the discussion which revolved around support for Mr. Tuki and further the issue of initiating actions against any member not adhering to the decision to be loyal to Tuki was discussed. Also it was decided to form a group of ‘like-minded’ legislators and accordingly formed S-18 or Super-18, besides forming one Action Committee tasked to take necessary actions against those MLAs who do not abide by the decisions taken jointly by the group. Thereafter, we had our dinner and left.
Your Excellency, on 16th September’ 2015, we were informed by Mr. Nyamar Karbak, MLA who was the coordinator of S-18 to join a dinner party at the official residence of Hon’ble Chief Minister Mr. Nabam Tuki. Like the other day, this time also 17 of us went together to attend the dinner hosted by the Chief Minister which amongst other included, i) Gabriel D.Wangsu, ii) Mr. Wanglam Sawin, iii) Phurpa Tsering, iv) Mr. Jambey Tashi, v) Mr. Tirong Aboh, vi) Mr. Dikto Yikar, vii) Mr. Mama Natung, viii) Mr. Pani Taram, ix) Mr. Nikh Kamin, x) Mr. Nyamar Karbak, xi) Mr. Bamang Felix, xii) Mr. Techi Kaso, xiii) Mr. Tatung Jamoh, xiv) Mr.Alo Libang, xv) Mr. Tapuk Taku, xvi) Kumsi Sidisow, xvii) Mrs. Karya Bagang.
Like the preceding night, some of the MLAs like Mr. Nyamar Karbak, Mr. Bamang Felix, Mr. Mama Natung and Mr. Nikh Kamen suddenly started discussion on the political matter and requested 17 of us to support Tuki and to protect his leadership from being ousted by the dissident group of the party. Most of us participated in the said discussion though reluctantly with certain reservations in our mind and heart. The gathering instead of being a dinner party was turning more into a political meeting and some MLAs, to our anxiety and panic, aggressively tried to persuade and prevail upon us thereby, putting all of us in a very stressful and awkward situation. There was little room left for further discussion or dissent.
Thereafter, some of our MLA colleagues came up with a strange proposal to sign and submit irrevocable resignation letter in the hand of HCM to show our loyalty to his leadership. We were baffled and dumbstruck by hearing the undemocratic, dangerous and inappropriate proposition placed before us by him. All of us were confused and couldn’t gather the courage to protest against the said proposal in the presence of the CM, Speaker of the Assembly and PCC president. Then some of the loyalists of Mr. Tuki namely Nyamar Karbak and Bamang Felix holding ready and prepared stereotype resignation letters in their hands came to us and handed over to each of us and asked us to put our signatures. The whole drama took place in presence of Mr. Nabam Tuki, CM and Mr. Padi Richo, President, Pradesh Congress Committee and putting us in strained mental torment and duress compelled us to hurriedly sign the resignation letter without even reading the content thereon, against our will and against the spirit of democracy. After getting us to sign the papers they collected the same and handed over to the Chief Minister Mr. Nabam Tuki.
Furthermore, we were given strict instruction and direction not to mention the date in our signatures. And just before the dinner, after concluding the meeting and signing of the resignation letters, surprisingly Speaker Nabam Rebia to arrived and joined in the dinner party at the CM’s official residence. Soon thereafter a group namely ‘S-18’ was formed in the Whatsapp. However, both of us were removed from the group on 6th October 2015.
Now under the above circumstances, we would like to inform you that those resignation letters were signed by all 17 of us under complete duress having obtained illegally and wrongfully. In this regard, the following arguments may be taken into considerations;
i) That we were invited to attend an informal dinner party hosted by the HCM for 17 of us. It was neither a CLP meeting nor a party meeting to discuss politics as only 17 of us were invited for the dinner at the official bungalow of the HCM. It is equally true that we were invited for a dinner and not for signing our own resignation letters.
ii) That none of us could muster the courage and spirit to protest the unholy and vicious agenda of the HCM that too in his presence and that of the Speaker, both holding high constitutional posts, and President, PCC.
iii) That all the resignation letters signed by us were stereotype or identical copies of one single letter which speaks volume about the dishonest intention of the HCM, Speaker and his supporters as he was ready with the resignation letters which again established that everything was planned before hand with the help and support of the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly to obtain our signatures in the resignation letters by hook or crook and instill fear in our mind. Invitation to the dinner party was only a ploy to trap us in the larger game plan to secure the Chief Ministerial Chair.
iv) These disgracing, undemocratic and unethical action has brought disgrace to the benign office of the Chief Minister and the Speaker as their conduct are completely unbecoming of a Chief Minister as well as for holding the prestigious and dignified chair of the Speaker. Their illegal and wrongful act of obtaining our signatures by putting us in duress is nothing but criminalization of politics and brute murder of democracy and its values and principles for their vested personal interest which is punishable under relevant law of the land.
v) If an elected representative is not allowed to take any decision out of his conscience and free will it tantamounts to murder of the very basic fabric of democracy which will bear negative impact in overall contribution to the state’s governance, and above all that would be murder of democracy.
vi) The reason quoted in the resignation letter is also highly inconceivable and ludicrous. How could any elected representative including us after being elected by the people would tender the resignation on such irrational, unjust and unfounded ground.
Your Excellency, vide our letter dated 01-10-2015 addressed to the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly which we had submitted to the office of the Speaker on 05-10-2015 before noon, we have elucidated the facts and circumstances under which our signatures in the resignation letters were obtained on 16-09-2015 at the official bungalow of CM and that the same was obtained under duress against our consent and free will, therefore requested the Speaker not to accept the resignation letter and to treat the same as invalid, null and void until and unless we come in person to submit the resignation letters.
However, ironically, after submission of our letter, it came to our knowledge that the Speaker had without following the provisions as enshrined in Article 190(3)(b) of the Constitution and Rule 200(2) of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the Arunachal Pradesh Legislative Assembly had purportedly issued a notification dated 01-10-2015 accepting our resignation and declaring our respective seats to have fallen vacant. The said notification was published in the evening of 05-10-2015 only immediately after submission of our withdrawal letters to the Speaker.
Article 190(3)(b) of the Constitution reads as follows;
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Rule 200(3) of the Business Rules reads as follows;
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Thus, the abovementioned provisions casts an obligation on the Speaker to make inquiry regarding the voluntariness and genuineness of the resignation letters when the resignation letters are not submitted in person but since the Speaker himself is a party to the whole episode playing hand in glove with the CM, therefore, he choose to do away with the laid provisions of the law.
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Your Excellency, since the notification dated 01-10-2015 was issued by the Speaker without following the established principles, therefore we had approached the Hon’ble Gauhati High Court challenging the said notification vide WP (C) No.6193/2015. The Hon’ble Gauhati High Court after considering the whole facts and circumstances of the case was inter-alia pleased to stay the operation of the impugned notification dated 01-10-2015 vide order dated 07-10-2015. The Hon’ble Court further observed that prima-facie the requirement of Rule 200(3) of the Procedure and Conduct of Business and the incorporated proviso to Article 190(3)(b) of the Constitution do not seem to have been complied and directed the Election Commission not to take any action on the basis of the said notification.
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Your Excellency, along with us, 15 other MLAs had also signed the resignation letters and handed over the same to the CM in the presence of the PCC Chief, but why only our resignation letters were entertained and accepted by the Speaker. What happened to the other resignation letters signed by 15 other MLAs? Why no action has been taken till date on the resignation letters of other 15 MLAs who till date has not withdrawn their resignation letters?
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We, therefore, request your Excellency to look into the issue seriously to unearth the unholy nexus between the Chief Minister, the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly and PCC, President. And why the Chief Minister has adopted such wrongful and illegal means to obtain the resignation letters from us, and what compelled him for such a criminal act is the million dollar question.
In view of the above facts and circumstances, it is our humble request to your august office to immediately enquire into the whole resignation incident through independent investigating agency like CBI because both the culprits are holding high constitutional posts, i.e. Chief Minister and Speaker and there cannot be free and fair investigation, if conducted by the State Investigation agency and take stringent action against all the persons involved in the whole crime by booking each and everyone under appropriate provision of law.”
According to learned counsel, it is shocking and distressing, that the above letter should have been addressed to the Governor, who has no role in intra-party affairs. The above letter and inferences, according to learned counsel, were suggestive of political motivation. The second communication dated 11.10.2015 was addressed (to the Governor) by 20 MLAs of the INC, jointly with two Independent MLAs. A relevant extract of the instant communication is reproduced below:
“Sub: Complaint against the policy of absolutism of the Chief Minister.
We the incumbent MLAs of INC party amongst them some are sitting Ministers in the present ruling dispensation of the State being perturbed and disillusioned with the current dismal and grim state of affairs of the State Government and the tyrannical style of incumbent Chief Minister Shri Nabam Tuki in running the government would with profound veneration most humbly like to state the following few lines for favour of your perusal and necessary appropriate action;
His Excellency, it has been learnt through the print media that the Chief Minister is contemplating to literally drop four veteran, experienced and highly regarded leaders like i) Mr. Chowna Mein, Agriculture Minister, ii) Mr. Kamlung Mossang, Food & Civil Supply Minister, iii) Mr. Kumar Wai, Cooperation Minister and Mr. Wanglin Lowangdong, Social Welfare Minister from the council of Minister without articulating any cogent reasons either implicit or explicit for taking such a drastic and unpleasant measure at this particular junction when the State is experiencing acute financial crisis having occasioned due to the misrule, shortsightedness, autocratic policies and wrong decisions of the incumbent Chief Minister coupled with excessive unplanned, wasteful expenditures and financial mismanagement leading the state to a complete stalemate with development activities in the State in a complete standstill and clouding the State with complete darkness of financial depression. His Excellency, your benign authority may be well aware of the fact that the State under the leadership of Mr. Nabam Tuki, CM has been reeling under the burden of humongous financial liabilities, insurmountable debts and burden of overdrafts for last 3 years due to gross and unprecedented level of corruption, fraudulent misappropriation and embezzlement of the project specific funds and revenues of the government.
His Excellency, it is very unfortunate that there are serious charges of criminal misconduct, nepotism and corruption against Shri Nabam Tuki on numerous counts which are as follows;
1) Awarding contract to his family and relatives by abusing his power and position without floating tenders and secured pecuniary gain by illegal and dishonest means in clear violation of codal formalities. The Hon’ble Gauhati High Court taking cognizance of the allegations against Nabam Tuki, CM vide Judgement and Order dated 21-08-2015 in WP (C) No. 1267/2010 has directed the CBI to register a case and conduct investigation against the alleged misconduct of Shri Nabam Tuki in awarding contracts to his wife, sister-in-law, brother and other near relatives without calling tenders by abusing his official position as a Minister. The Hon’ble Court also directed the CBI to probe and investigate the alleged UCO bank transaction of Rs.30,00,000/- (Rupees Thirty Lacs) only allegedly deposited in the account number of Mr. Nabam Tuki by Mr. N.N. Osik, the then Director of Food & Civil Supplies.
2) Serious allegation against the incumbent CM who also holds the charges of Finance, Planning and Disaster & Relief Ministries for gross misuse and embezzlement of relief funds under NDRF & SDRF. In this connection also two PILs are pending in the Hon’ble Gauhati High Court being numbered as PIL No. 62/2015 & 65/2015 and vide order dated 06/08/2015 the Hon’ble Gauhati High Court was pleased to admit both the PILs by rejecting the preliminary objection of the State Government on the issue of maintainability of the cases and made an observation that “there appears to be some prima facie case to be enquired into the justification of the State in making assessments regarding natural disaster”. In this connection the Controller and Auditor General of India is also conducting an enquiry into the allegation.
3) Gross misuse and siphoning of project specific funds under Centrally Sponsored Scheme (CSS) as a result of which majority of the projects or works under abovementioned schemes has not been completed and/or are under progress. Worst some have even not been commenced and will never see the light of the day because all the grant and assistance provided by the GOI has been whimsically and capriciously diverted and misused under Non-Plan head and PDS. Though majority of the works and projects has not been completed but the funds have been completely exhausted creating colossal financial liabilities to the tune of Rs.6911.55 Crores. That is the sole reason, why the state government is unable to furnish the UC as demanded by the GOI. The Ministry of DONER has instituted an enquiry to unearth the degree of corruption.
4) The State Government is reeling under the burden of overdraft for consecutively two years. The Government committed an overdraft of Rs.(-) 449.76 Crores during 2013-14 and Rs. (-) 581.38 Crores during last financial year 2014-15. The current overdraft till May’ 2015 is Rs. (-) 222 Crores bringing the total overdraft to the tune of Rs. (-) 1,253.14 Crores. The amount of overdraft are to be repaid by the State government to the RBI with 13% interest rate which in turn will affect the development of the State, as the Government will be forced to utilize the plan money for the repayment of the overdraft.
Your Excellency, overdraft, suspension of government bank transactions, inordinate delay in disbursement of pension, GPF, TA/DA and other benefits to the government employees, transfer of funds in the civil deposits of the government, non-payment of bills to the contractors and suppliers against the completed works and non-payment of stipend to the students has become an order of the day. Your Excellency, Shri Nabam Tuki, CM is adopting all sorts of illegal and unlawful means in order to quell and crush the voices of dissent who having been disillusioned and disenchanted with his misdeed and style of running the State Government in a despotic and autocratic manner has intensified their demand in recent days for a change in the leadership. He is even indulging in criminal and immoral activities to secure his Chief Ministerial post. It is very disheartening that Shri Nabam Tuki, CM with the support of handful 9 Page 10 of his protagonist invited 17 MLA’s for a dinner party at his official bungalow and has forcefully obtained signatures of the 17 MLA’s in a resignation letters authored and produced at his residence by putting them under intense duress and pressure with the objective to use the same as a tool to blackmail them not to shift their loyalty or allegiance.
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7. Your Excellency, in a democratic and parliamentary form of government, the legislators of the single largest party in the legislative assembly select a leader amongst themselves to lead them who is called as a leader of the legislative party and the selected leader accordingly becomes the Chief Minister and forms a government. If the leader upon being selected loses the goodwill, trust and confidence of the legislators who have selected him, the legislators can change or replace the said leader with more efficient, capable and competent leader to run the government. In context to the present prevailing political scenario of the State the CM has lost the goodwill, trust and confidence of majority of the legislators which can gauged from the CLP meeting which was held on 29-09-2015 where only 22 party legislators attended the meeting. Immediately thereafter a Cabinet was also summoned by the CM and similarly the meeting not attended by majority of the Cabinet Ministers and was less than the necessary quorum for taking any major decisions, therefore, it is the CM who should be tendering his resignation papers rather than dropping highly respected and decorated sitting Ministers who have serving the State to the best of their capability and capacity without any complaint or blemish on their integrity.
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Therefore, in view of the above facts and circumstances of the case, it is our collective earnest request and appeal to your esteemed office not to entertain the decision of the incumbent CM as he is running a minority government and enjoys the support of only handful of legislators as he has lost the confidence and goodwill of the majority of the legislators. If the CM is allowed to prevail then it will tantamount to murder of democracy and parliamentary form of government.
signed by 20 INC MLAs and 2 Independent MLAs.
It was submitted, that despite the position being clear, that a Governor has no role in internal party feuds, details as noticed in the letter extracted above, were being provided to the Governor. Illustratively it was submitted, that the manner of functioning of the Chief Minister, or the likely change in the composition of the Cabinet, or the manner in which financial affairs of the State were being handled, or the prevailing allegations of corruption against the Government, and such like matters, are beyond the realm of cognition and responsibility of the Governor. And yet, were being brought to the notice of the Governor. It was urged, that all this was being done, because of the belief of the dissident faction, that the Governor would act thereon. This, because of the tacit support, by MLAs belonging to the Bharatiya Janata Party (hereinafter referred to as, ‘the BJP’). It was highlighted, that the involvement of two Independent MLAs along with 20 MLAs of the INC, in the letter dated 11.10.2015, needed to be pointedly noticed. Because it demonstrates, not only dissension within the party, but also the involvement of support from outsiders. The connotations of the above second letter, according to learned counsel, were also suggestive of political motivation.
7. Having highlighted the alleged divisive activities of the breakaway group of MLAs within the INC, itz was submitted, that the party President – Padi Richo, was right in perceiving, that the above actions amounted to breach of party discipline. The party President accordingly, addressed individual communications dated 12.10.2015, to the defaulting MLAs, wherein he brought to their attention, the party’s impressions. A relevant extract of one of the said communications is being reproduced hereunder:
“It has been reported by party functionaries and workers of your constituency and the Block/District Congress Committee that you are indulging in various activities which amounts to breach of discipline of the Party under Claus 4(a), (b) and (c) of the Constitution of Indian National Congress. In this connection I have also issued a Circular to all Party MLAs and Leaders on 1st September 2015 making it clear that action will be taken against any such leader indulging in indiscipline and anti-party activities.
The matter was placed before the Executive Committee of the PCC on 6 th October 2015 and the Committee is of the view that there is a prima facie breach of discipline from your side. You are hereby called upon to explain the charges made against you within 15 days time as to why disciplinary action as it may deem fit is not taken against you.”
Your failure to reply within the above stated time will be considered as that you have no explanation or reply to be given, and appropriate action as deemed fit, will be taken against you without any further notice.”
8. At the instant juncture, a meeting inviting all members of the Congress Legislature Party was convened for 8.11.2015, which was to be attended by representatives of the central leadership. An extract of the communication dated 5.11.2015, calling the above meeting, is reproduced below:
“No.CM(AP – 11/2015 dtd 05th Nov, 2015[:] Please convey the following message by quickest means as under[.] quote[.] From Shri Nabam Tuki, Chief Minister to all Congress MLAS/Parliamentary Secretaries/Ministers[.] As directed by Shri V. Narayanasami, General Secretary, AICC, In-Charge, Arunachal Pradesh a meeting of all members of Congress Legislature Party (CLP) convened on 8th November, 2015(Sunday) at 4.30 PM repeat 8th November,2015 at 4.30 PM at Rajiv Gandhi Bhawan, Itanagar[.] Meeting will be attended by [.] One[.] Shri V Narayanasami, General Secretary, AICC, In Charge[.] Two[.] Dr. Jayakumar, AICC Secretary,[.] Three[.] Shri Padi Richo, President PCC among others[.] Request to attend the meeting as directed by Shri V Narayanasami, GS, AICC positively[.] unquote[.] Plse confirm N.T.T.”
Immediately on receipt of the aforesaid invitation, the same 21 dissident MLAs, addressed a joint statement to the party leadership, that they would not be attending the meeting (scheduled for 8.11.2015), as the Chief Minister – Nabam Tuki had lost all moral credibility to lead the House. An extract of the contents of above joint assertion is reproduced below:
“…It has come to our notice that a CLP meeting has been convened on 8th November 2015. There are already differences of opinion with regards to autocratic way of functioning and disrespect for inner democracy of the party with the present CLP leader Mr. Nabam Tuki. Were clearly denounce his legitimacy as the leader of Congress Legislature Party of Arunachal Pradesh. Under this circumstances any meeting called under his leadership do not carry any substance and holds no water. He has lost all the moral credibility to lead the party in the house.
Therefore, we the undersigned Congress legislature party members have unanimously decided not to attend the CLP meeting called under the leadership of Mr. Nabum Tuki.”
signed by 21 MLAs of the INC.
9. On 12.10.2015, the President of the Congress Legislature Party issued a show cause notice to 19 MLAs belonging to the INC, for indulging in activities, indicative of breach of sincerity and commitment towards the INC. Another communication was also issued to all MLAs belonging to the INC, to attend a party meeting, at the residence of the leader of Congress Legislature Party. It was submitted, that the same 21 legislators belonging to the INC again addressed a joint statement to the Chief Minister, wherein they contested his legitimacy, as leader of the INC. The said legislators, again refused to attend the meeting. They also issued a press note, to openly announce their aforesaid stance. In a meeting held on 8.11.2015, the central leadership of the Congress Party affirmed, its support to the Chief Minister – Nabam Tuki. It was pointed out, that thereafter, another notice was issued for holding a meeting of the legislators, belonging to the INC, on 18.11.2015. Yet again, the same 21 MLAs did not attend the meeting, and reiterated their point of view, with reference to the leadership of the Chief Minister. It was asserted on behalf of the appellants, that this was a revolt of sorts, within the INC. 10. In their narration, learned counsel also pointed out, that on 16.11.2015, a notice of resolution for the removal of the Deputy Speaker – Tenzing Norbu Thongdok, was moved. The same was allegedly moved by 16 MLAs, belonging to the INC. As a matter of clarification, it would be pertinent to mention, that the Deputy Speaker had been elected as an MLA, on the nomination of the INC.
11. On 19.11.2015, a notice of resolution for the removal of the Speaker of the Assembly – Nabam Rebia, was moved by the 13 MLAs – 11 belonging to the BJP, and 2 Independent MLAs. It was submitted, that the aforesaid notice was issued under Article 179(c) read with Article 181, and Rules 151 and 154 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business of the Arunachal Pradesh Legislative Assembly, framed under Article 208 (hereinafter referred to as, the ‘Conduct of Business Rules’). The notice depicted the following grounds for the removal of the Speaker:
“(i) The Constitution and democracy are not safe in the hands of the Speaker, as he has unseated two members of the Arunachal Pradesh Legislative Assembly;
(ii) That he has flagrantly violated the Constitution;
(iii) That Speaker has not been functioning as a neutral person;
(iv) That the Speaker has been appointing secretarial staff/persons without following administrative procedure.”
12. Yet another meeting of MLAs belonging to the INC, was held on 18.11.2015. The allegedly errant 21 MLAs belonging to the INC, did not again attend the meeting. It was asserted, that in order to take stock of the ongoing activities of the 21 dissident MLAs, another meeting of the Congress Legislature Party was held on 3.12.2015, wherein the participants took note of the prevailing situation, by recording the following proceedings:
“This meeting of the Congress Legislature Party, Arunachal Pradesh, held on today, the 3rd December at 4.00 P.M. at Itanagar unanimously resolves to request the Party Leadership and the Congress High Command at Delhi, bringing to your kind attention a letter dated 2nd November 2015 signed by 21 elected members of the Congress Legislature Party Arunachal Pradesh, in clear undemocratic, indiscipline and unheard manner dictating terms and excuses for absenting and voluntarily distancing from the Congress Legislature Party, Arunachal Pradesh against procedure established by the rules and regulations of the party, challenging the democratically elected Congress Legislature Party leaders authority, instead of participating in the meeting as members of the Congress Legislature Party and express whatever opinion, suggestion or grievances which can be resolved or decided by the Congress Legislature Party in its meeting.
It is also requested that the Congress High Command may make it clear that whether the signatories of the letter are staying back in Delhi as per the advice of the AICC in spite of the fact that, the above group of Legislatures voluntarily abstained from the earlier CLP meeting held on 16th November, 2015, which was attended by the General Secretary, AICC in charge of Arunachal Pradesh Shri V. Narayanaswamy, Dr. Jayakumar, Secretary AICC and Shri Padi Richo President APCC on the same grounds.
The meeting of the Congress Legislature Party also bring to the notice of the Party Leadership that the activities of the above 21 MLAs who have formed a separate group distancing themselves from the Congress Party, is working against the interests of the Party and the democratically elected Government of the Party, which is taking all-round efforts to develop the State and working untiringly to improve and help the people of Arunachal Pradesh, which got elected with an unprecedented mandate in the Assembly election held on 2014.”
13. It was submitted, that the said 21 dissident MLAs, were publicly proclaiming, that V. Narayanasamy, a former Union Minister, and the All India Congress Committee in-charge for North Eastern States, was supporting them in their cause. V. Narayanasamy had to address identical letters to all the 21 dissident MLAs, on 6.12.2015, to repudiate their assertion of his support. The text of the aforesaid communications is reproduced below:
“AICC has received copies of letters dated 15.11.2015 and 02.12.2015 addressed to the Chief Minister written by you and 20 other MLAs of the Congress Legislative Party, Arunachal Pradesh in which you have claimed and alleged that I have advised you to stay back in Delhi to bring a solution to the present stalemate in the Party.
2. The above statements are false and against the directions given by me and the Party Leadership at Delhi and Itanagar. In the CLP meeting held on 16.11.2015 at Itanagar, I categorically made a statement that the Party Leadership is wholly supporting the present Chief Minister, Shri Nabam Tuki who is CLP leader having majority and if any grievance, any of the CLP member is having can be sorted out in the Party forum instead of giving public statements and working against the Chief Minister or the Govt. of Arunachal Pradesh.
3. You have also willfully did not attend three consecutive CLP meetings and boycotted the same.
4. Instead of listening to my statement and direction, you have made contrary statements and false allegations against me and the Party Leadership which is not acceptable.”
The President of the Arunachal Pradesh Congress Committee – Padi Richo was required to deliver the said letters to the 21 dissident MLAs, and also, to obtain their acknowledgement. Which he did.
14. It was highlighted, that the aforesaid activities of the dissident members of the INC, compelled the President – Padi Richo, to again issue identical letters to the concerned MLAs on 7.12.2015, with a copy to the Chief Whip of the Congress Legislature Party – Rajesh Tacho. The text of the above letter is reproduced below:
“AICC has taken serious note of your activities against the party, continuous attacks, defamatory and unfounded allegations and propaganda against the Chief Minister and the Council of Ministers of Arunachal Pradesh and the Congress Party calculated to lower the prestige of the party, inspite of our repeated directions not to indulge in any such activities which amounts to breach of discipline of the party.
By such continuous actions and activities you have distanced yourself and from your conduct we have come to the conclusion that you have voluntarily given up your membership of Indian National Congress and the Congress Legislature Party.
I am enclosing herewith he letter received from the General Secretary, AICC vide dated 06/12/2015, addressed to you in this regard.”
15. It was also pointed out, that a very important event, sponsored by the respondents, took shape on 19.11.2015. The 13 MLAs who had issued the notice of resolution for the removal of the Speaker – Nabam Rebia, forwarded its copy to the Governor, with a covering letter dated 19.11.2015, wherein, they requested the Governor, to prepone the 6th session of the Assembly. Their prayer was aimed at expediting the removal of the Speaker – Nabam Rebia. This, according to the appellants, is apparent from the fact, that the request for preponement was sought on the ground, that the issue of removal should be taken up immediately after completion of the 14 days notice, mandated under Article 179(c). The 13 MLAs also pressed, through their above letter, that the party composition in the House, be not altered, till the resolution for removal of the Speaker, was finally disposed of.
16. In narrating the facts, it was pointed out, that in the meeting of the members of the Congress Legislature Party held on 3.12.2015, the activities of the dissident members of the party were highlighted, indicating their rebellious posturing. The central leadership of the INC, at this juncture, again supported the leadership of Chief Minister – Nabam Tuki. The central leadership further took note of the fact, that 21 members of the Congress Legislature Party, had distanced themselves from the party. It was therefore, that the Chief Whip of the Congress Legislature Party – Rajesh Tacho, filed a petition under Paragraph 2(1)(a) of the Tenth Schedule on 7.12.2015, seeking disqualification of 14 MLAs of the INC. The disqualification of the 14 MLAs had been sought on the ground, that they had snapped their ties with the INC, by their refusal to respond to, or associate with the political leadership in the State, and for their having expressly refused to attend the meetings of the party held on 29.9.2015, 8.11.2015, 18.11.2015 and 3.12.2015. And also, for having issued a press note, to publicly air their views. The above disqualification petition, was presented to the Speaker. It would be relevant to mention, that the name of the Deputy Speaker – Tenzing Norbu Thongdok, figured at serial no.14, in the disqualification petition. On receipt of the aforesaid petition, the Speaker issued notices to the concerned 14 MLAs, on 7.12.2015 itself. The 14 MLAs belonging to the INC, were required to submit their response(s), and thereupon to appear before the Speaker, on 14.12.2015.
17. It was contended on behalf of the appellants, that the factual position noticed above, triggered the stage for a political upmanship. Not between the legislators of the INC and the BJP, but between two factions of the INC. With one faction of the INC legislators, garnering support from BJP legislators. It was alleged, that the BJP legislators, in order to topple the Government in power, were extending support to the faction opposing the continuation of the Chief Minister – Nabam Tuki.