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SC questions Buta’s controversial reports 
Dissolution of Bihar Assembly
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, September 20
Bihar Governor Buta Singh’s controversial reports on the dissolution of the State Assembly came under scrutiny of the Supreme Court today, with the apex court observing that it “appeared” that he was more concerned about the formation of RJD government or the imposition of the President’s rule rather than exploring the possibility of a third alternative.

The observation of the court came after day-long arguments by former Attorney-General Soli J. Sorabjee appearing before a Constitution Bench on behalf of four NDA MLAs, challenging the imposition of the President’s rule in Bihar on the grounds that the Governor had no substantive material to show that the efforts of the JD(U) leader Nitish Kumar to cobble a majority were a result of any “horse trading”.

Taking note of the first report of Buta Singh, sent to President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam on April 27, a five-judge Constitution Bench, headed by Mr Justice Y.K. Sabharwal observed “it appears that the Governor was for the RJD government or the President’s rule. He was not for any third party government.”

The court said when a two-thirds majority of MLAs of a party decided to support a particular group in the House, how could it be questioned under the 10th Schedule of the Constitution? The Governor could not “pre-empt” anyone from staking claim to form a government.

His role came only after the claim was staked to see whether that person actually enjoyed the majority or not, but how could he prevent anyone from staking the claim to form a government, the Bench having Mr Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, Mr Justice B.N. Agrawal, Mr Justice Ashok Bhan and Mr Justice Arijit Pasayat as other judges, observed when Sorabjee alleged that Buta Singh’s “desperate hurry in sending the report to the President without any substantial proof of horse-trading, was only to prevent Nitish Kumar to stake claim to form the NDA government.

Sorabjee said under the Constitution, the Governor was obliged to “let him (Nitish Kumar) to stake claim and then decide whether he commanded a majority or not. But he acted contrary to the constitutional provision and failed in his duty.”

“There is no explanation either in the affidavit of the Union Government as what was the reason for the tearing hurry on part of the Governor in sending the second report to the President on May 21 and then Cabinet deciding to recommend the dissolution of the Assembly at midnight on May 22,” he said, adding the only reason was that Nitish Kumar should not be allowed to stake claim as it was not “suitable to the political ambitions of Lalu Prasad.”

Referring to Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil’s speech in Parliament that Governor should talk to every political group to explore the possibility of forming a government in Bihar in the face of fractured mandate when the Assembly was kept in suspended animation after the imposition of the Central rule, Sorabjee said “the Governor did not make any effort to talk to various political groups in the Assembly.”

“It was incumbent upon the Governor to see whether any ministry can be formed before coming to the conclusion that there was no alternative but to dissolve the House. But from the face of the Governor’s two reports, it was clear that he was more concerned about the restiveness of RJD MLAs,” he argued.

At this, the Bench asked “you mean to say that the conclusion can be drawn that there was no relevant material before the President before signing the proclamation.”

“Yes, there was no relevant material. It was irrational use of Article 356,” he said. As the court asked Sorabjee as what were his views on offering allurement other than money to MLAs like offering them ministerial posts, he said these were the realities of coalition politics.

“These are the realities of coalition government. There is nothing unconstitutional or illegal about it. This is how the coalition governments function, though it may not be a healthy position,” he contended.



Secular forces fail to unite in Bihar
Anita Katyal
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, September 20
The Congress party’s best efforts to convert next month’s Bihar Assembly elections into a battle between the UPA and the NDA have failed as the state is all set to witness a multi-cornered contest with secular forces going separate ways.

While the RJD, Congress, CPM and the NCP have forged a joint front and started seat-sharing negotiations, the contours of a Third Front are becoming clearer with the Ram Vilas Paswan-led LJP and the CPI holding formal talks today. The latter will also have an electoral understanding with the CPI (ML) although it will not formally join its formation.

In addition to these two groupings, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the Samajwadi Party have also declared their intention to contest the coming Assembly elections, placing the NDA at a distinct advantage.

Although the Congress is keeping up the public posture on a possible change of heart by the LJP, Mr Paswan today made it amply clear that he will not join forces with the RJD. On the other hand, he retracted his earlier stand that the LJP will not pit its candidates against Congress nominees since his offer has been spurned by the Congress.

While it realises that the fragmentation of secular forces will help the NDA, the Congress is trying hard to minimise the possible damage being caused by this division. AICC General Secretary Digvijay Singh, incharge of Bihar, is now making sure that the four UPA allies which are contesting together have a harmonious relationship though some glitches have come up with the RJD chief not willing to concede more than 26 seats to the Congress which has pitched for around 45 seats.

The four parties have held several rounds of talks over the past two days to work out an amicable seat-sharing arrangement. The leaders first had a three-hour meeting at the rail minister’s residence in the afternoon today which was followed by another late night session.

The negotiations have, so far, remained inconclusive though all the parties maintain that the talks are in the final stages. Both RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav and Mr Digvijay Singh said they will announce the details of the agreement on September 23 after the Election Commission issues the notification for the first phase of the Assembly elections.

“There is broad agreement on the number of seats and the constituencies we will contest,” Mr Digivijay said, adding the matter will be finalised by tomorrow. Meanwhile, the first draft of the common minimum programme, he said, is ready and will be shown to the RJD chief for his approval. The CPM has declined to be a signatory to this document.


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