The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Bihar ghost stalks govt & governor
- Double whammy from SC: Buta for ‘misleading’, Centre for ‘not verifying’

New Delhi, Jan. 24: The Supreme Court today said governor Buta Singh had misled the Centre into recommending dissolution of the Bihar Assembly on May 23 last year.

But it also ticked off the Manmohan Singh government for not verifying the findings in the governor’s reports, on the basis of which the Assembly was dissolved before any group could stake claim to form the government.

A five-judge Constitution bench ruled by a 3:2 majority that there was no evidence to show that attempts were made to cobble a majority using allurements like money, caste and posts.

Buta had cited apprehensions of the Janata Dal (United)-BJP combine trying to win over Lok Janshakti Party MLAs and split the Congress as the main reasons for recommending dissolution. In two reports on April 27 and May 21, he said intelligence inputs indicated “a trend to win over elected representatives” using money, caste and posts.

The majority judgment said Buta, who had been an active politician, had acted in “undue haste” to deny the Dal (U) a chance to stake claim and had sent a report containing “unascertained facts”.

The issue of defection has to be dealt with according to the law, the court said, adding that the power in the 10th Schedule lies with the Speaker, not the governor. The provisions of the 10th Schedule were not relevant at the time the governor sent his report, it added. “That was fully an unconstitutional act.”

The court also said the Union council of ministers should have verified the facts instead of accepting the report as gospel truth.

Chief Justice Y.K. Sabharwal and Justices B.N. Agrawal and Ashok Bhan, hearing a batch of petitions, held the dissolution unconstitutional. Justice K.G. Balakrishnan and Arijit Passayat delivered a dissenting verdict.

Balakrishnan and Passayat said the governor’s action was not mala fide because the Dal (U) had not placed any material for government formation. They also found no fault with the Centre, pointing out that it was merely acting on the governor’s report.

The 243-member House was placed under suspended animation on March 7, soon after the polls threw up a fractured verdict, to allow parties a chance to explore the possibility of forming a government.

But a day after the governor’s May 21 report, the Centre recommended dissolution. The President, then in Moscow, gave his assent late in the night and the notification was issued on May 23.

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