New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed the plea by two former rebel Congress lawmakers in Arunachal Pradesh challenging acceptance of their resignations by Speaker Nabam Rebia on October 1, 2015, 15 days after they had signed it.
Declining to interfere with January 12 order of Gauhati High Court upholding the speaker's decision to accept the resignations of Wanglam Sawin and Gabriel D. Wangsu, a bench of Justice Anil R. Dave and Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel asked them why they kept silent for 15 long days before the resignations were accepted.
"Be careful you don't sign in future," the bench said, as it dismissed the plea, being unimpressed by submission by senior counsel L. Nageshwar Rao, appearing for the lawmakers, that resignations should be seen in the context of power struggle going on within the Congress in the northeastern state.
Rao argued that the resignations were not given of their free will and were obtained under duress. He said he was not denying his clients had signed the letters but sought the circumstances under which they gave the signatures has to be looked into as there were "sufficient reasons to create doubt" about them.
He said that the language of the two resignation letters is identical and was not in the prescribed format as provided under the rules. The reasons for the resignation are "moral grounds", not able to rise to the "expectation" of the electorate and that the resignation is "irrevocable", he noted.
"Could a resignation be irrevocable, denying its author right to withdraw it," Rao asked, contending that the speaker should have gone into the circumstances under which they were tendered.
But the court wasn't persuaded.
"Could there be a law that if a resignation (letter) has to be accepted, (the speaker must) entertain a doubt, go behind it (circumstances of the resignation) and inquire," the bench asked Rao.
Telling Rao that one can understand if it was the case of a group D employee, the court said "the fact remain is that it is his (Sawin) signature" and the signature, the duration (from its signing and acceptance) and (absence) of objection could not be overlooked.
Meanwhile the constitution bench of Justice Jagdish Singh Khehar, Justice Dipak Misra, Justice Madan B. Lokur, Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghosh and Justice N.V. Ramana said that under the scheme of the constitution, the governor's powers were limited and should be exercised in a fair manner in furtherance of democracy.
"Under the constitution, the powers of the governor are limited," it said as senior counsel Rakesh Dwivedi told the court in certain situation, the width of the governor's powers gets enlarged.
Dwivedi contended that if a chief minister refuses to convene the assembly session to prove majority support, then the governor could summon it with a message that the motion of confidence should be taken up first.
"If a chief minister is adamant and does not call the session (of assembly), then can governor not exercise his discretionary powers and summon the house with a message," he said, defending the decision of Arunachal Governor Jyoti Prasad Rajkhowa summoning the assembly session in December 2015.
Appearing for some of the rebel Congress legislators, Dwivedi asked that if the governor has limited powers, could the court further curtail them.
The constitution bench is hearing petitions by Rabia and others on the prevailing political crisis in the state and the constitutional functionaries' role.