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Bihar court battle gets bigger

New Delhi, Aug. 31: A five-member Constitution bench will decide whether the upcoming Bihar elections should be stalled and the dissolved Assembly revived, making Indian history.

The bench will also judge if the Constitution, which gives a governor certain immunities, prevents Buta Singh being summoned to explain his recommendation in May that the Bihar Assembly be dissolved.

A three-judge Supreme Court bench of Chief Justice R.C. Lahoti and Justices G.P. Mathur and P.K. Balasubramanyan today heard three petitions challenging the dissolution of the Assembly. It referred the matter to the Constitution bench ' specifying five questions it should answer (see chart).

Whatever the larger bench’s verdict, history has already been made with the governor’s reports ' one in March recommending the Assembly be kept in suspended animation and the other two months later, recommending dissolution ' set to be made public.

The three-judge bench said the governor’s reports must be attached with the Centre’s reply. Governors’ reports, especially on law and order and dissolution of an Assembly, are classified “top secret”.

The bench refused to comment on the petitioners’ plea that the poll panel be stayed from issuing an election notification. “All the issues would go before the larger bench and you argue there,” it said.

The court asked if the poll panel could wait till September 6 when the Constitution bench would begin its hearings. The commission’s counsel, S. Muralidhar, said the panel will come out with a “press release” announcing the poll schedule within “two to three days”, but indicated that it will not be a formal notification.

Supreme Court advocate Viplav Sharma had filed a PIL seeking, among other things, the stay on the poll panel. Independent MLA Purnima Yadav, too, had made this plea arguing that once a poll notification is issued, no court can interfere with it and the entire court proceedings become futile.

The third petition has been filed jointly by a group of NDA leaders and a member of the breakaway faction of the Lok Janshakti Party.

Sharma’s petition wants the governor summoned. It asks whether Buta Singh should not have sworn in the elected members and appointed a ministry headed by a chief minister and allowed it a trial of strength. If the plea is upheld, it would revive the dissolved Assembly, something that has never happened in the country.

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