The Supreme Court today rejected the Centre’s opposition in giving documents seized from deposed Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Nabam Tuki and his cabinet colleagues after imposition of President’s Rule to them, saying this was the “basic fairness level required for them to assail” the promulgation.
The court directed the Centre to make copies and return “forthwith” by Friday all seized private letters, files and documents to the former CM, Ministers and parliamentary secretaries and are in the custody of the Administrator through the Chief Secretary.
“After hearing counsel for parties at some length, we are of the view that certain records/documents deserve to be furnished to the former Chief Minister, ministers and parliamentary secretaries whose offices have been sealed and from whose offices files/documents have been kept in safe custody,” a five-judge constitution bench headed by Justice J S Khehar said.
The bench, also comprising Justices Dipak Misra, M B Lokur, P C Ghosh and N V Ramana, accordingly directed the Centre to make copies of all files and documents were taken from custody of the former CM, ministers and parliamentary secretaries and furnish them the copies.
Further, it said the Centre would furnish the copies of the hard disks of computers, laptops seized from them.
After the bench did not accept the contention of Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi that the request by Tuki and other Congress leaders were not genuine, he agreed to its suggestions to provide copies of the documents.
“You are on technicalities and we are on fairness and only on basic fairness,” the bench told the Attorney General and added that at the moment they are only contesting that they should have opportunity to defend.
“How can you say you will have the sword and he will not have it,” the bench remarked,
Rohatgi submitted that Tuki’s colleagues filed the petition and never protested that they were handicapped in the absence of the copies of the letters exchanged between Governor Jyoti Prasad Rajkhowa and the then Chief Minister.
During the hearing, the bench also asked Attorney General “can you contradict that as proposition of law, declaration of promulgation can be assailed as malafide. They want to establish there is malafide. They want to establish malafide from the communications between the Governor and the then Chief Minister.
The arguments seeking copies of letters addressed between Tuki and Governor and return of files/documents, personal computers and laptops etc provided by the state to CM and ministers, were led by senior advocate Fali S Nariman who said there was a need for interim injunction to retore “status quo ante”, otherwise the entire exercise would be futile.
He commenced the submission by assailing the office memorandum issued by the Governor within two hours of the promulgation of President’s Rule in the state, in which an order was issued to the Chief Secretary to seize all official documents, lock the offices of CM, ministers, parliamentary secretaries and others.
“He (Governor) has passed an order and taken immediate steps to dismiss the CM, his council of ministers and parliamentary secretaries making it impossible to maintain status quo ante at the end of the two months if Parliament do not affirm the promulgation,” he submitted.
The noted jurist along with other senior advocates like Kapil Sibal, Rajeev Dhavan and Vivek Tankha said there were 100 letters exchanged between the then CM and the Governor and though they do not reflect happy notes and were acrimonious, they will answer the questions raised by the Centre in its response to the petitions challenging the imposition of central rule in the state on January 26.
“How can he (Governor) take away my files when I am challenging the proclamation,” he submitted and said he does not have trust on the Governor.
“I have no trust on Governor but have trust in Attorney General,” Nariman submitted.
The arguments by Nariman in a high pitch evoked reactions from the bench more than once and one such remark was “little anger and aggression is getting too much”.
The senior advocate said “there was a need for interim interlocutory urgent order” as all political appointments stood cancelled in the state and all of them (CM, ministers etc) are painted “as if they are criminals”.
“The immediate action of the Governor was to ask the Chief Secretary to seize government files, documents, computers, laptos etc as if we are criminals,” he submitted and added that within hours after promulgation of President’s Rule at 06:00 PM, the Governor at 08:00 PM comes out with the office memorandum.
( Source – PTI )