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Supreme Court Indicts Bihar Governor Buta Singh


The Hindu, New Delhi, Jan. 25, 2006

Photo: Bihar Governor Buta Singh coming out of the Bihar Niwas in New Delhi on Tuesday after the Supreme Court indicted him for 'mala fide exercise of power and subversion of the Constitution.'

Holds dissolution of Bihar Assembly illegal; says Cabinet should have verified the facts in the Governor's report

Majority Bench: 'This court cannot remain a silent spectator watching the subversion of the Constitution'

Minority Bench: 'No mala fide exercise of power by the Governor in sending the two reports to the Centre'

The Supreme Court came down heavily on Tuesday on Bihar Governor Buta Singh for recommending the dissolution of the State Assembly last year. Holding unconstitutional and illegal the dissolution, the Court said that it was done only to prevent the Janata Dal (U) leader Nitish Kumar from staking claim to form the government.

A Constitution Bench by a majority of 3:2 held that 'in the absence of the relevant material, much less due verification, the report of the Governor has to be treated as the personal ipse dixit (perception or opinion) of the Governor. The drastic and extreme action under Article 356 of the Constitution cannot be justified on mere ipse dixit, suspicion, whims and fancies of the Governor.'

The majority Bench comprising Chief Justice Y.K. Sabharwal, Justice B.N. Agrawal and Justice Ashok Bhan observed that 'this Court cannot remain a silent spectator watching the subversion of the Constitution. It is to be remembered that this court is the sentinel on the qui vive.'

The minority Bench comprising Justice K.G. Balakrishnan and Justice Arijit Pasayat, however, held that the Court could not go into the question as to what manner of advice was tendered by the Council of Ministers to the President. It held that there was no mala fide exercise of power by the Governor in sending the two reports to the Centre.

Centre criticised

The majority Bench, criticising the Centre for recommending the dissolution, said that 'the Governor may be the main player, but the Council of Ministers [Union Cabinet] should have verified the facts stated in the report of the Governor before hurriedly accepting it as a gospel truth as to what the Governor stated. Clearly, the Governor has misled the Council of Ministers which led to the aid and advice being given by the Council of Ministers to the President leading to the issue of the impugned proclamation.'

On the two reports sent by Mr. Buta Singh on April 27, 2005 and May 21, 2005, the Bench said that 'without highly cogent material, it would be wholly irrational for constitutional authority to deny the claim made by a majority to form the government only on the ground that the majority has been obtained by offering allurements and bribe . . .'

It said that 'the extraordinary emergency power of recommending dissolution of a Legislative Assembly is not a matter of course to be resorted to for good governance or cleansing of the politics for the stated reasons without any authentic material.'

Referring to the Centre's argument that given a choice between going back to the electorate and accepting a majority obtained improperly, only the former was the real alternative, the Bench said 'the proposition is too broad and wide to merit acceptance.'