Home Secretary Anil Goswami has admitted before the Supreme Court that he had suggested to Uttarakhand Governor Aziz Qureshi to consider resigning from his post as certain statements made by him were “not compatible with the high constitutional office that he was occupying”.
He, however, strongly refuted the charge that he had threatened the Governor to step down.
In an affidavit filed in the apex court, Goswami submitted that no Governor was forced to resign by the NDA government after it came to power in May except in the case of Mizoram Governor Kamla Beniwal who was removed as her conduct was not compatible with the high constitutional office. He said that Governors had resigned on their own volition.
The Home Secretary was at the Centre of controversy after some Governors appointed by the UPA regime alleged that he had nudged them to relinquish office.
Referring to a controversial statement made by Qureshi in which he had said that henious crimes such as rape can only be stopped by divine intervention, the Home Secretary submitted that it was in “extremely poor taste” and “highly insensitive” and suggested him to resign after that.
“I mentioned that the explanations were not satisfactory as his comments had created an uproar. In view of this situation, I had suggested that he may consider putting in his paper because the Office of the Governor had been embroiled in needless controversies,” he said, adding, “I submit that I did not threaten the Governor to resign”.
He said that there is nothing wrong in the Home Secretary making a call to the Governor to find out about the status of the affairs relating to the press reports which were forwarded by the Secretariat of the President.
“Dr Aziz Qureshi, while being a Governor, had made certain statements which were not compatible with the high constitutional office that he was occupying and as such it was my duty to interact with him,” he said.
“It is the actions of the petitioner himself which have given rise to a situation which does not behove of a Governor,” he said.
“It is the Home Secretary who interacts with the governors of the states and keeps the Home Minister at the Centre briefed. The Home Secretary is the one who conveys if there are any concerns and he is the one who has to take stock of a particular situation in a state through the Governor and convey it to the Home Minister and to the President,” he said.
Goswami said that the statement made by Qureshi was highly insensitive and “The Governor has shown extremely poor taste in commenting on this issue.
“The Union Government respects the judgement of the Supreme Court in B L Singhal case and hence removed only one Governor, Dr Kamla, as her conduct was not compatible with the high constitutional office she occupied. In all other cases, the Governors had resigned on their own volition,” he said.
The response was filed in compliance with the apex court’s order which had in August issued notice to Centre and the Home Secretary on Qureshi’s plea challenging Narendra Modi government’s moves to ease him out of office.
The apex court had granted six weeks time to them to file their response on the allegation levelled by the governor and referred the case to five-judge Constitution bench.
Qureshi is the first governor to move Supreme Court against the Modi government which has sacked two governors.
Four other governors by UPA have resigned since the NDA came to power in May this year.
“Issue an order or direction declaring that the impugned action of threatening the governor to resign or face removal is constitutionally perverse, legally untenable, arbitrary, capricious and malicious and reprimand home secretary(and/or the persons responsible for such action) for his attempt to give such diktat to his constitutionally superior functionary,” Qureshi said in his petition.
The governor had taken charge of the office on May 15, 2012 for a tenure of five years.
Qureshi said in his plea that after NDA government came to power at the Centre, Goswami had called him on July 30 and asked him to tender resignation and made it clear that he will be removed from office if he does not step down.
On August 2, Qureshi handed over in person his explanation to the President in a confidential communication and similar intimation was also made to the home minister, the petition said.
The governor said Goswami again called him on August 8 insisting that he resign.
“There is no question that the Union government or home minister, through home secretary, can set terms to the governor and attempt to extract resignation under the fear of removal. Such mode of action is alien to the Constitution and violative of Constitutional ethos,” the petition said.
Earlier, the NDA government had sacked Mizoram governor Kamla Beniwal.
87-year-old Beniwal, the former Gujarat governor who had a running battle with Narendra Modi when he was the state’s chief minister, was removed just two months before her tenure was due to end.
Virendra Kataria, a former Congress leader, was also sacked as Puducherry governor.
Goswami is believed to have telephoned some of the governors, appointed by the previous UPA regime, asking them to step down after which West Bengal governor M K Narayanan, Nagaland governor Ashwani Kumar, UP governor B L Joshi and Chhattisgarh governor Shekhar Dutt put in their papers.