Miffed over Centre’s sacking of governors, SC demands explanation

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Supreme Court
Supreme Court

The BJP-led government is already facing the heat over the imposition of President’s Rule  in Arunachal Pradesh. Adding to their woes now is that the Supreme Court has  issued notice and sought response from the BJP-led government on the issue of sacking of UPA-appointed Governors of Uttarakhand and Puducherry in 2014 when it came to power, terming it as “a serious matter”.

A five-judge constitution bench headed by the Chief Justice T S Thakur, which was hearing a petition filed by Aziz Qureshi and Virendra Kataria, former Governors of Uttarakhand and Puducherry respectively, sought response from the Centre within four weeks and posted the matter on March 28.

Qureshi, who was eased out as Governor soon after Narendra Modi government came to power in May 2014, had alleged that then Home Secretary had threatened him to resign from the post or face removal. Kataria, a former Congress leader, was also sacked as Puducherry Governor in July 2014.

During the hearing, the bench, also comprising Justices F M I Kalifulla, A K Sikri, S A Bobde and R Banumathi, observed that “it is a serious matter”. “We may also have to lay down a format in which communication with such high constitutional dignitaries takes place,” the bench observed.

Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi represented the Centre, while senior advocate and Congress leader Vivek Tankha was appearing for the two sacked Governors. During the hearing, the bench noted that while a phone call was made to Qureshi by then Home Secretary Anil Goswami, in the case of Kataria, it was the Private Secretary of the Home Secretary, who had rung up the Governor. Notice was also issued to Goswami.

The apex court on August 21, 2014, had referred the matter of Qureshi to five-judge constitution bench observing that interpretation of Article 156 (Term of office of Governor) was involved. Kataria’s petition was also listed for hearing along with it as the identical issues were raised.

Qureshi was the first Governor to move Supreme Court against the Modi government which had sacked two Governors before him. Four other Governors appointed by the erstwhile UPA regime had resigned since the NDA came to power. They were the West Bengal Governor M K Narayanan, Nagaland Governor Ashwani Kumar, UP Governor B L Joshi and Chhattisgarh Governor Shekhar Dutt. The NDA government had sacked Mizoram governor Kamla Beniwal.

It was claimed in Qureshi’s petition that Article 156 of the Constitution had not been followed and Home Secretary threatening the Governor was unconstitutional. Qureshi had said that the Centre and the Home Secretary should be asked at whose behest he was threatened and urged the court to “reprimand and pass strictures against such person(s)”.

“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,” the petition had said. Qureshi had taken charge of the office on May 15, 2012 for a tenure of five years.

In his plea, he had claimed that after NDA government took over at the Centre, Goswami had called him on July 30, 2014, and asked him to tender resignation and made it clear that he will be removed from office if he did not step down.