The Supreme Court today issued notice to the Centre on Uttarakhand Governor's plea challenging Narendra Modi government's moves to ease him out of office, bringing the controversy over removal of UPA-appointed Governors under judicial lens.
The apex court also issued notice to Home Secretary Anil Goswami who had allegedly threatened Governor Aziz Qureshi to resign from the post or face removal by Centre.
A bench headed by Chief Justice R M Lodha granted six weeks time to Centre and Goswami to file their response on the allegation levelled by the Governor and referred the case to five-judge Constitution bench observing that interpretation of Article 156(Term of office of Governor) is involved.
Qureshi is the first Governor to move Supreme Court against the Modi government which has sacked two Governors. Four other Governors by UPA have resigned since the NDA came to power in May this year.
At the beginning of the proceedings of the case, which was listed for urgent hearing, the bench observed that Governor holds the post only during the pleasure of the President and someone has to convey the feeling of the President as he is not supposed to call himself.
A battery of lawyers, comprising two former Law Ministers of UPA regime--Kapil Sibal and Salman Khurshid-- and two former Additional Solicitor Generals, however pleaded that Constitution provision of Article 156 has not been followed and Home Secretary threatening the Governor is unconstitutional.
Qureshi said in his petition that Centre and the Home Secretary should be asked on 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 said.
The Governor had taken charge of the office on May 15, 2012 for a tenure of five years.
Qureshi said in his plea that after NDA government came to power at the Centre, Goswami had called him on July 30 and asked him to tender resignation and made it clear that he will be removed from office if he does not step down.
On August 2, Qureshi handed over in person his explanation to the President in a confidential communication and similar intimation was also made to the Home Minister, the petition said, adding that the copies of the communication is also filed in a sealed envelope for court's perusal.
The Governor alleged in his petition that Goswami again called him on August 8 insisting that he resign.
"There is no question that the Union Government or Home Minister, through Home Secretary, can set terms to the Governor and attempt to extract resignation under the fear of removal. Such mode of action is alien to the Constitution and violative of Constitutional ethos," the petition said.
Earlier, the NDA government had sacked Mizoram Governor Kamla Beniwal.
87-year-old Beniwal, the former Gujarat Governor who had a running battle with Narendra Modi when he was the state's Chief Minister, was removed just two months before her tenure was due to end.
Virendra Kataria, a former Congress leader, was also sacked as Puducherry Governor last month.
Goswami is believed to have telephoned some of the Governors, appointed by the previous UPA regime, asking them to step down after which West Bengal Governor M K Narayanan, Nagaland Governor Ashwani Kumar, UP Governor B L Joshi and Chhattisgarh Governor Shekhar Dutt put in their papers.
SC is going to have its hands full. Maharashtra Governor has resigned.