Oct. 1: The Supreme Court today threatened to get a state government sacked over possible contempt, prompting charges of “judicial encroachment” from politicians while lawyers accused it of passing “casual remarks”.
The judges said they would direct the Centre to dismiss the Tamil Nadu government if it was proved to have violated yesterday’s order not to observe the bandh it had called today.
“Is this a government' Is this the Tamil Nadu government' Is this the DMK government, a strong ally of (the) UPA government'” the bench fumed after being told in the morning the state was virtually under a bandh.
“If things continue like this, the UPA should not feel shy of imposing President’s rule in the state.”
Legal experts and the Congress’s spokesperson shrugged off the remarks as mere “oral observations” that lacked teeth, and Union minister Priya Ranjan Das Munshi ruled out any action against the state government, a central ally.
Schools and colleges were closed in Tamil Nadu today, markets and cinemas did not open till evening, and most government buses never left the depots though the alliance had formally called the bandh off last evening.
The ADMK, whose petition had prompted yesterday’s strictures against the bandh, told the court that “transport is off the roads, all shops are closed and advocates aren’t able to reach the courts”.
“Move a contempt petition, we shall not hesitate to summon the chief secretary and the chief minister,” said the bench headed by Justice B.N. Agarwal, the seniormost judge after Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan who is away in London.
“If the state is not obeying the court order, it will be deemed as a complete breakdown of the constitutional machinery. We will recommend its dismissal to the Centre.”
Within hours, Das Munshi asserted: “We will do nothing to hurt the Tamil Nadu government. They (the DMK) are part of our government. We will not disturb the state government remotely, directly or explicitly.”
To CPM general secretary Prakash Karat, the judges’ remarks were “an uncalled-for judicial encroachment”.
“Such casual remarks suggesting imposition of President’s rule cannot be used with such alacrity,” said constitutional expert Rajeev Dhavan. “It is something that should not even be suggested in jest.”
Tamil Nadu chief minister M. Karunanidhi, who joined ruling alliance leaders and supporters in observing a fast, declined to comment on the court’s strictures but told reporters there was no bandh.
“For you, there might be, but for us normal life was not affected…. Those who were born as Tamils have voluntarily closed their shops.”
The government counsel, too, had pleaded: “Everything is normal. Vehicles are moving. Some unions may have struck work.”
The court shot back: “What is the government doing' Your stand seems to be only that respondents 3 to 7 (the DMK and its allies) have been restrained… (and that) others can go ahead and enforce (the bandh).”
The ADMK said it would file a contempt petition. With tomorrow a holiday, it must wait till Wednesday.