«Nabam Rebia, and Bamang Felix. Appellants versus Deputy Speaker and others. Respondents JUDGMENT Jagdish Singh Khehar, J. 1. Leave granted. 2. The ...»
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
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 Signature Not Verified Digitally signed by
PARVEEN KUMARDate: 2016.07.14 9.12.2015 indicating inter alia the manner in which the proceedings of the 15:55:40 IST
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.
Your Excellency, 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;
xxx xxx xxx Rule 200(3) of the Business Rules reads as follows;
xxx xxx xxx 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.
xxx xxx xxx 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.