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3.1 Rameshwar Prasad & Ors Versus Union of India & Anr

'However suspicious the conduct of the Governor may be, and even if it is accepted that he had acted in hot haste it cannot be a ground to term his action as extraneous. A shadow of doubt about bona fides does not lead to an inevitable conclusion abo

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3.1 Rameshwar Prasad & Ors Versus Union of India & Anr
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IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA CIVIL ORIGINAL JURISDICTION WRIT PETITION

IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA 
CIVIL ORIGINAL JURISDICTION 
WRIT PETITION (C) No. 257 of 2005

Rameshwar Prasad and Ors. ... Petitioners 
Versus 
Union of India and Anr. ... Respondents

(With WP (C) Nos. 255, 258 and 353 of 2005)

J U D G M E N T

ARIJIT PASAYAT J.

In the last few years the attack on actions of Governors in the matter of installation/dissolution of ministries has increased, which itself is a disturbing feature. A Governor has been assigned the role of a Constitutional sentinel and a vital link between the Union and the State. A Governor has also been described as a useful player in the channel of communication between the Union and the State in matters of mutual interest and responsibility. His oath of office binds him to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of India, 1950 (in short ‘the Constitution’) and the law, and also to devote himself to the service and the well being of the people of the State concerned. When allegations are made that he is partisan and/or is acting like an agent of a political party, un-mind of his Constitutional duties, it naturally is a serious matter.

The cases at hand relate to acts of the Governor of Bihar. 

Challenge in these writ petitions is to the constitutionality, legality and validity of a Notification GSR 333(E) dated 23.5.2005 of the Union of India in ordering dissolution of the Bihar Legislative Assembly. Writ Petition (C) No.257 of 2005 has been filed by four persons who were elected to the dissolved Legislative Assembly. Petitioner No.1 Shri Rameshwar Prasad was elected as a candidate of the Bhartiya Janta Party (in short ‘BJP’). Petitioner No.2 Shri Kishore Kumar was elected as an independent candidate. Petitioner No.3 Shri Rampravesh Rai was elected as a candidate of the Janta Dal United (in short ‘JDU’) while petitioner NO.4 Dr. Anil Kumar was elected as a candidate of the Lok Janshakti Party (in short ‘LJP’).

Writ Petition (C) No.353 of 2005 has been filed by Smt. Purnima Yadav who was elected as an independent candidate. Writ Petition (C) No.258 of 2005 has been filed by Shri Viplav Sharma, an Advocate, styled as a Public Interest litigation.

All these writ petitions have been filed under Article 32 of the Constitution. In Viplav Sharma’s Writ Petition in addition to the challenges made by the writ petitioners in other two writ petitions, prayer has been made for a direction to the Governor of Bihar to administer oath to all the elected members of the 13th Legislative Assembly of the State of Bihar and make such assembly functional, purportedly in terms of Articles 172 and 176 of the Constitution and appoint the Chief Minister and Council of Ministers in terms of Article 164(1) of the Constitution. Further, consequential prayers have been made for a direction to the Election Commission of India (in short the ‘Election Commission’) not to hold fresh elections for the constitution of 14th State Legislative Assembly. It has also been prayed to direct stay the effect and operation of the purported report dated 22.5.2005 of the Governor of Bihar to the Union Cabinet inter-alia recommending the dissolution of the Assembly and the Presidential Proclamation dated 7.3.2005 placing the 13th State Legislative Assembly under suspended animation and the Presidential Proclamation dated 23.5.2005. In essence, his stand was that since the State Legislative Assembly was yet to be functional there was no question of dissolving the same. Certain other prayers have been made for laying down the guidelines and directions with which we shall deal with in detail later on. It is to be noted that by order dated 25.7.2005 it was noted that Mr. Viplav Sharma had stated before the Bench hearing the matter that he does not press the prayers (i), (ii), (vii) and (viii) in the writ petition.

The challenges in essence, as culled out from the submissions made by the petitioners are essentially as follows:

The dissolution of the Legislative Assembly by the impugned Notification dated 23.5.2005 in exercise of the powers conferred by sub-clause (b) of Clause (2) of Article 174 of the Constitution read with clause (a) of the Proclamation number GSR 162(E) dated 7th March, 2005 issued under Article 356 of the Constitution in relation to the State of Bihar has been made on the basis of a tainted and clearly unsustainable report of the Governor of Bihar. It is stated by Mr. Sorabjee that the Governor’s report which led to imposition of President’s Rule over the State of Bihar was not based on an objective assessment of the ground realities. The Home Minister in his speech made on 21.3.2005 when the Bihar Appropriation (Vote on Account) Bill, 2005 was being discussed in Rajya Sabha clearly indicated that it is not good for democracy to let the President’s rule continue for a long time. It was unfortunate that no political party could get a majority and more parties could not come together to form the Government. The minority government also would not be proper to be installed where the difference between the requisite majority and the minority was not very small. The House was assured that the Government was not interested in continuation of President’s Rule for a long time. It was categorically stated that sooner it disappears the better it would be for the State of Bihar, for democracy and for the system that has been followed in this country. The Governor was requested to explore the possibilities of formation of a Government. This could be achieved by talking to the elected representatives. Contrary to what was held out by the Home Minister, on totally untenable premises and with the sole objective of preventing Shri Nitish Kumar who was projected to be as the Chief Ministerial candidate by the National Democratic Alliance (in short the ‘NDA’) with support of a break away group of LJP and independents. In hot-haste, a report was given, which was attended to with unbelievable speed and the President’s approval was obtained. The hot-haste and speed with which action was taken clearly indicates mala-fides. Though the Governor made reference to some horse trading or allurements the same was clearly on the basis of untested materials without details. Action of the Governor is of the nature which was condemned by this Court in S.R. Bommai and Ors. v. Union of India and Ors. (1994 (3) SCC 1). It was submitted that similar views expressed by respective Governors did not find acceptance in the cases of dissolution of Assemblies in Karnataka and Meghalaya in the said case. Though the Proclamations in respect of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh were held to be not unconstitutional, yet the parameters of the scope of judicial review were highlighted. Even if it is accepted that the Governor’s opinion is to be given respect and honour in view of the fact that he holds a high constitutional office, yet when the view is tainted with mala-fides the same has to be struck down. In the instant case according to learned counsel for petitioners, the background facts clearly established that the Governor was not acting bona fide and his objective was to prevent installation of a majority Government. Even if it is accepted for the sake of arguments that the majority was cobbled by unfair means that is a matter with which the Governor has no role to play. It is for the Speaker of the Assembly, when there is a floor test to consider whether there was any floor crossing. If any material existed to show that any Legislature was lured by unfair means that is for the electorate to take care of and the media to expose. That cannot be a ground for the Governor to prevent somebody from staking a claim when he has the support of majority number of legislatures. It is submitted that similar views regarding horse trading etc. were made in the report of the Governor so far as the dissolution of the Karnataka Assembly is concerned and this Court in S.R. Bommai’s case (supra) found that the same cannot be the foundation for directing dissolution.

For the last few years formation of government by a party having majority has become rare. Therefore, the coalition governments are in place in several States and in fact at the Centre. There is nothing wrong in post poll adjustments and when ideological similarity weighs with any political party to support another political party though there was no pre-poll alliance, there is nothing wrong in it. Majority of the legislatures of the LJP party had decided to support JDU in its efforts to form a Government. Clear decisions were taken in that regard. Some Independent M.L.As had also extended their support to Mr. Nitish Kumar. The Governor cannot refuse to allow formation of a Government once the majority is established. The only exception can be where the Governor is of the view that a stable Government may not be formed by the claimants. It is not the position in the case at hand. Mr. Nitish Kumar had support of legislators, more than the requisite number and in fact the number was far in excess of the requisite number. The Governor’s actions show that he was acting in a partisan manner to help some particular political parties.

The scope of judicial review was delineated by this Court in State of Rajasthan and Ors. v. Union of India and Ors. (1977 (3) SCC 592) and was further expanded in Bommai’s case (supra). Tested on the touchstone of the guidelines set out in Rajasthan’s case (supra) and Bommai’s case (supra) the Governor’s report is clearly unsustainable and consequential Presidential Proclamation is unconstitutional. It is to be noted that the Presidential Proclamation was based solely on the Governor’s report as has been accepted by the Union of India.

Mr. P.S. Narasimha and Mr. Viplav Sharma supported the stand. Additionally, with reference to their additional stands noted supra in the writ petitions, they submitted that the President’s Notification is not sustainable and is unconstitutional.

In response, Mr. Milon K. Banerjee, learned Attorney General, Mr. Goolam E. Vahanvati, learned Solicitor General, Mr. Gopal Subramaniam, learned Additional Solicitor General, Mr. P.P. Rao, learned senior counsel and Mr. B.B. Singh, learned counsel submitted that there is no quarrel about the scope of judicial review of this Court in matters relating to Proclamation under Article 356(1) and consequentially Article 174(2) of the Constitution. But the factual scenario as projected by the petitioners is really not so.

In the instant case, the Governor had not in reality prevented anybody from staking a claim. It is nobody’s case that somebody had staked a claim. What the Governor had indicated in his report dated 21.5.2005 (not dated 22.5.2005 as stated in the writ petitions by the writ petitioners) was that effort was to get the majority by tainted means by allurements like money, caste, posts and such unfair and other objectionable means. When the foundation for the claim was tainted the obvious inference is that it would not lead to a stable government and the same is clearly visible. It has been submitted that the parameters of judicial review are extremely limited so far as the Governor’s report is concerned and consequential actions taken by the President. The Governor cannot be a mute spectator when democratic process is tampered with by unfair means. The effort is to grab power by presenting a majority, the foundation of which is based on factors which are clearly anti democratic in their conception. Parliamentary democracy is a part of the basic structure of the Constitution and when the majority itself is the outcome of foul means it is clearly against the mandate given by the electorate. It can never be said that the electorate wanted that their legislatures after getting their mandate would become the object of corrupt means. When the sole object is to grab power at any cost even by apparent unfair and tainted means, the Governor cannot allow such a government to be installed. By doing so, the Governor would be acting contrary to very essence of democracy. The purity of electorate process would get polluted. The framers of the Constitution never intended that democracy or governance would be manipulated. Defections strike at the root of representative government. They are unconstitutional, illegal, illegitimate, unethical and improper. The Tenth Schedule cannot take care of all situations and certainly not in the case of independents. It would be too hollow to contend that the floor test would cure all impurity in gathering support of the legislatures. Floor test cannot always be a measure to restrain the corrupt means adopted and in cobbling the majority. It is also too much to expect that by exposure of the corrupt means so far as a particular legislature is concerned, by the people or by the media the situation would improve. Since there is no material to show that any party staked a claim and on the contrary as is evident from the initial report of the Governor dated 6.3.2005 that nobody was in a position to stake a claim and the fact that passage of about three months did not improve the situation, the Governor was not expected to wait indefinitely and in the process encourage defections or adoption of other objectionable activities. It is submitted that ratio in State of Rajasthan’s case (supra) so far as the scope of judicial review is concerned has not been expanded in Bommai’s case (supra), and the parameters remain the same. 

With reference to Tenth Schedule more particularly sub-paragraphs 2 and 4 it is submitted that disqualification had been clearly incurred by the members of LJP break away group. There was in fact no merger of the so-called break away group with JDU. The documents filed by the petitioners amply show that there was only a proposal and in fact not any merger. Documents on the other hand show that the so called resolution was also manipulated. One person had signed for several persons and even the signatures differ. If really the persons were present in the so called meeting, adopted the resolution purported to have been taken, there was no reason as to why concerned participants did not sign the resolution and somebody else signed it in their favour. This clearly shows that on the basis of manipulated documents it was attempted to be projected as if Shri Nitish Kumar had a majority. Interestingly, Shri Nitish Kumar has not filed any petition and only four members have filed the petitions though claim was that more than 122 had extended support. Though that by itself may not be a ground to throw out the petitions, yet the petitions certainly suffer from legal infirmity. As amply proved, the petitioners have not approached this Court with clean hands and therefore are not entitled to any relief. It is submitted that the petitioners in WP (C) No.257 and 353 have not questioned the correctness of the President’s Notification dated 7.3.2005, and interestingly in the so called Public Interest Litigation, it has been challenged. After having given up challenge to the major portion of the challenges it has not been explained by the petitioner in person as to how and in which way any of his rights has been affected. If the persons affected have not questioned the correctness of the Notification dated 7.3.2005 the petitioner in person should not be permitted to raise that question. It is the basic requirement of a Public Interest Litigation that persons who are affected are unable to approach the Court. It is strange that learned counsel for the legislators-writ petitioners have accepted the Notification dated 7.3.2005 to be valid and in order. The plea taken in the so called Public Interest Litigation is to the contrary. The factual position in Bommai’s case (supra) was different. It related to cases where elected governments were in office and the Governors directed dissolution. The position is different here. Further it is submitted that the power exercised by the Governor is legislative in character and it can only be nullified on the ground of ultra-vires. The reports of the National Commission To Review the Working Of The Constitution and Sarkaria Commission have amply indicated the role to be played by the Governors’ and sanctity to be attached to their report. Even when the parameters of judicial review spelt out in the State of Rajasthan and Bommai’s cases (supra) are kept in view, the impugned report and consequential President’s Notification do not suffer from any infirmity to warrant interference. It is further submitted that the Election Commission had notified fresh elections and even if for the sake of arguments if any defect is noticed in the Governor’s report or the consequential President’s Notification, that cannot be a ground to stall the election already notified. People can give their mandate afresh and the plea that large sums of money would be spent if the fresh elections are held is really no answer to preventing installation of a government whose foundation is shaky. It is submitted that the report does not even show a trend of any partisan approach vis-a-vis any political party by the Governor who was acting independently. In fact before the report dated 21.5.2005 on which the final decision for the Presidential Proclamation was taken a report dated 27.4.2005 was given which clearly indicated that no party was in a position to form the Government. The Governor has clearly indicated the source from which he came to know about the efforts to form the Government by illegal means. It is pointed out that the decision relied upon by Mr. P.S. Narasimha and Mr. Viplav Sharma i.e. Udai Narain Sinha v. State of U.P. and Ors. (AIR 1987 Allahabad 293) does not really reflect the correct position in law and was rendered in the peculiar fact situation. On the contrary, the decision of the Kerala High Court in K.K. Aboo v. Union of India (AIR 1965 Kerala 229) lays the correct position. Stand that because of Articles 172 or 174 of the Constitution there is no scope of dissolving the Assembly before it was summoned to hold the meeting is not acceptable on the face of Section 73 of the Representation of People Act, 1951 (in short the ‘RP Act’). It is pointed out that the decision in K.K. Aboo’s case (supra) was approved to be laying down the correct law by a Constitution Bench of this Court in Special Reference No.1 of 2002 (2002 (8) SCC 237).

The reports of the Governor dated 6.3.2005, 27.4.2005 and 21.5.2005 need to be reproduced. They read as under:

"D.O.No.33/GB 

Patna, the 6th March, 2005

Respected Rashtrapati Jee,

The present Bihar Legislative Assembly has come to an end on March, 2005. The Election Commission’s notification with reference to the recent elections in regard to constitution of the new Assembly issued vide No.308/B.R.L.A./2005 dated March, 2005 and 464/Bihar-LA/2005, dated the th March, 2005 is enclosed (Annexure-I)

2. Based on the results that have come up, the following is the party-wise position:

1 R.J.D 75
2 J.D.(U) 55
3 B.J.P. 37
4 Cong.(I) 10
5 B.S.P 02
6 L.J.P 29
7 C.P.I 03
8 C.P.I.(M) 01
9 C.P.I. (M.L.) 07
10 N.C.P 03
11 S.P 04
12 Independent 17

Total

243

The R.J.D. and its alliance position is as follows:

R.J.D. 75
Cong (I) 10
C.P.I.(support letter not received) 03 
C.P.I.(M) 01
N.C.P. 03
Total 92

The N.D.A. alliance position is as follows:

B.J.P 37
J.D.(U) 55
Total: 92

3. The present Chief Minister, Bihar, Smt. Rabri Devi met me on 28.2.2005 and submitted her resignation alongwith her Council of Ministers. I have accepted the same and asked her to continue till an alternative arrangement is made.

4. A delegation of members of L.J.P. met me in the afternoon of 28.2.2005 and they submitted a letter (Annexure II) signed by Shri Ram Vilas Paswan, President of the Party, stating therein that they will neither support the R.J.D. nor the B.J.P. in the formation of government. The State President of Congress Party, Shri Ram Jatan Sinha, also met me in the evening of 28.2.2005.

5. The State President of B.J.P., Shri Gopal Narayan Singh alongwith supporters met me on 1.3.2005. They have submitted a letter (Annexure III) stating that apart from combined alliance strength of 92 (BJP and JD(U) they have support of another 10 to 12 Independents. The request in the letter is not to allow the R.J.D. to form a Government.

6. Shri Dadan Singh, State President of Samajwadi Party, has sent a letter (Annexure IV) indicating their decision not to support the R.J.D. or N.D.A. in the formation of the Govt. He also met me on 2.3.2005.

7. Shri Ram Naresh Ram, Leader of the C.P.I. (M.L.-Lib), Legislature Party alongwith 4 others met me and submitted a letter (Annexure V) that they would not support any group in the formation of Government.

8. Shri Ram Vilas Paswan, National President of L.J.P. alongwith 15 others met me and submitted another letter (Annexure VI). They have re-iterated their earlier stand.

9. The R.J.D. met me on 5.3.2005 in the forenoon and they staked claim to form a Government indicating the support from the following parties:

Cong.(I) 10
N.C.P 03
C.P.I. (M) 01
B.S.P (copy enclosed as Annex.VII) 02 

The R.J.D. with the above will have only 91.

They have further claimed that some of the Independent members may support the R.J.D. However, it has not been disclosed as to the number of Independent M.L.As. from whom they expect support nor their names.

Even if we assume the entire independents totalling 17 to extend support to R.J.D. alliance, which has a combined strength of 91, the total would be 108, which is still short of the minimum requirement of 122 in a House of 243.

10. The N.D.A. delegation led by Shri Sushil Kumar Modi, M.P., met me in the evening of 5.3.2005. They have not submitted any further letter. However, they stated that apart from their preelection alliance of 92, another 10 Independents will also support them and they further stated that they would be submitting letters separately. This has not been received so far. Even assuming that they have support of 10 Independents, their strength will be only 102, which is short of the minimum requirement of 122.

11. Six Independents M.L.As. met me on 5.3.2005 and submitted a letter in which they have claimed that they may be called to form a Government and they will be able to get support of others (Annexure VIII). They have not submitted any authorisization letter supporting their claim.

12. I have also consulted the legal experts and the case laws particularly the case reported in AIR 1994 SC 1918 where the Supreme Court in para 365 of the report summarized the conclusion. The relevant part is para 2, i.e. the recommendation of the Sarkaria Commission do merit serious consideration at the hands of all concerned. Sarkaria Commission in its report has said that Governor while going through the process of selection should select a leader who in his judgment is most likely to command a majority in the Assembly. The Book "Constitution of India" written by Shri V.N. Shukla (10th Edition) while dealing with Articles 75 and 164 of the Constitution of India has dealt with this subject wherein it has quoted the manner of selection by the Governor, in the following words:

"In normal circumstances the Governor need have no doubt as to who is the proper person to be appointed; it is leader of majority party in the Legislative Assembly, but circumstances can arise when it may be doubtful who that leader is and the Governor may have to exercise his personal judgment in selecting the C.M. Under the Constitutional scheme which envisages that a person who enjoys the confidence of the Legislature should alone be appointed as C.M.".

In Bommai case referred to above in para 153 S.C. has stated with regard to the position where, I quote:

"Suppose after the General Elections held, no political party or coalition of parties or groups is able to secure absolute majority in the Legislative Assembly and despite the Governor’s exploring the alternatives, the situation has arisen in which no political party is able to form stable Government, it would be case of completely demonstrable inability of any political party to form a stable Government commanding the confidence of the majority members of the Legislature. It would be a case of failure of constitutional machinery".

13. I explored all possibilities and from the facts stated above, I am fully satisfied that no political party or coalition of parties or groups is able to substantiate a claim of majority in the Legislative Assembly, and having explored the alternatives with all the political parties and groups and Independents M.L.As., a situation has emerged in which no political party or groups appears to be able to form a Government commanding a majority in the House. Thus, it is a case of complete inability of any political party to form a stable Government commanding the confidence of the majority members. This is a case of failure of constitutional machinery.

14. I, as Governor of Bihar, am not able to form a popular Government in Bihar, because of the situation created by the election results mentioned above.

15. I, therefore, recommend that the present newly Constituent Assembly be kept in suspended animation for the present and the President of India is requested to take such appropriate action/decision, as required.

With regards,

Yours sincerely,
(Buta Singh)

Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, 
President of India, 
Rashtrapati Bhavan, 
New Delhi.

 

D.O. No. 52/GB 
Patna, the 27th April,2005

Respected Rashtrapati Jee,

I invite a reference to my D.O. No.33/GB dated the March, 2005 through which a detailed analysis of the results of the Assembly elections were made and a recommendation was also made to keep the newly constituted Assembly (Constituted vide Election Commission’s notification No.308/B.R.-L.A./2005 dated the 4th March, 2005 and 464/Bihar-LA/2005, dated the 4th March, 2005) in a suspended animation and also to issue appropriate direction/decision. In the light of the same, the President was pleased to issue a proclamation under Article 356 of the Constitution vide notification No.G.S.R. 162(E), dated March, 2005 and the proclamation has been approved and assented by the Parliament.

2. As none of the parties either individually or with the then pre-election combination or with post-election alliance combination could stake a claim to form a popular Government wherein they could claim a support of a simple majority of 122 in a House of 243, I had no alternative but to send the above mentioned report with the said recommendation.

3. I am given to understand that serious attempts are being made by JD-U and BJP to cobble a majority and lay claim to form the Government in the State. Contacts in JD-U and BJP have informed that 16-17 LJP MLAs have been won over by various means and attempt is being made to win over others. The JD-U is also targeting Congress for creating a split. It is felt in JDU circle that in case LJP does not split then it can still form the Government with the support of Independent, NCP, BSP and SP MLAs and two third of Congress MLAs after it splits from the main Congress party. The JD-U and BJP MLAs are quite convinced that by the end of this month or latest by the first week of May JD-U will be in a position to form the Government. The high pressure moves of JD-U/BJP is also affecting the RJD MLAs who have become restive. According to a report there is a lot of pressure by the RJD MLAs on Lalu Pd. Yadav to either form the Government in Bihar on UPA pattern in the Centre, with the support of Congress, LJP and others or he should at least ensure the continuance of President’s rule in the State.

4. The National Commission To Review The Working Of The Constitution has also noticed that the reasons for increasing instability of elected Governments was attributable to unprincipled and opportunistic political realignment from time to time. A reasonable degree of stability of Government and a strong Government is important. It has also been noticed that the changing alignment of the members of political parties so openly really makes a mockery of our democracy.

Under the Constitutional Scheme a political party goes before the electorate with a particular programme and it sets up candidates at the election on the basis of such programmes. The 10th Schedule of the Constitution was introduced on the premise that political propriety and morality demands that if such persons after the elections changes his affiliation, that should be discouraged. This is on the basis that the loyalty to a party is a norm being based on shared beliefs. A divided party is looked on with suspicion by the electorate.

5. Newspaper reports in the recent time and other reports gathered through meeting with various party functionaries/leaders and also intelligence reports received by me, indicate a trend to gain over elected representatives of the people and various elements within the party and also outside the party being approached through various allurements like money, caste, posts, etc. which is a disturbing feature. This would affect the constitutional provisions and safeguards built therein. Any such move may also distort the verdict of the people as shown by results of the recent elections. If these attempts are allowed to continue then it would be amounting to tampering with constitutional provisions.

6. Keeping in view the above mentioned circumstances the present situation is fast approaching a scenario wherein if the trend is not arrested immediately, the consequent political instability will further give rise to horse trading being practised by various political parties/groups trying to allure elected MLAs. Consequently it may not be possible to contain the situation without giving the people another opportunity to give their mandate through a fresh poll.

7. I am submitting these facts before the Hon’ble President for taking such action as deemed appropriate.

With regards,

Yours sincerely,
(Buta Singh)

Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, 
President of India, 
Rashtrapati Bhavan, 
New Delhi."

 

D.O. No. 140/PS-GB/BN 
Patna, the 21st May, 2005

Respected Rashtrapati Jee,

I invite a reference to my D.O. letter No. 52/GB dated 27th April 2005 through which I had given a detailed account of the attempts made by some of the parties notably the JD-U and BJP to cobble a majority and lay a claim to form a Government in the State. I had informed that around 16-17 MLAs belonging to LJP were being wooed by various means so that a split could be effected in the LJP. Attention was also drawn to the fact that the RJD MLAs had also become restive in the light of the above moves made by the JD-U.

As you are aware after the Assembly Elections in February this year, none of the political parties either individually or with the then pre-election combination or with post election alliance combination could stake a claim to form a popular Government since they could not claim a support of a simple majority of 122 in a House of 243 and hence the President was pleased to issue a proclamation under Article 356 of the Constitution vide notification No. – GSR 162 (E) dated March 2005 and the Assembly was kept in suspended animation.

The reports received by me in the recent past through the media and also through meeting with various political functionaries, as also intelligence reports, indicate a trend to win over elected representatives of the people. Report has also been received of one of the LJP MLA, who is General Secretary of the party having resigned today and also 17-18 more perhaps are moving towards the JD-U clearly indicating that various allurements have been offered which is a very disturbing and alarming feature. Any move by the break away action to align with any other party to cobble a majority and stake claim to form a Government would positively affect the Constitutional provisions and safeguards built therein and distort the verdict of the people as shown by the results in the recent Elections. If these attempts are allowed it would be amounting to tampering with Constitutional provisions.

Keeping the above mentioned circumstances, I am of the considered view that if the trend is not arrested immediately, it may not be possible to contain the situation. Hence in my view a situation has arisen in the State wherein it would be desirable in the interest of the State that the Assembly presently kept in suspended animation is dissolved, so that the people/electorate can be provided with one more opportunity to seek the mandate of the people at an appropriate time to be decided in due course.

With regards,

Yours sincerely
Sd/-
(Buta Singh)

Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam,
President of India,
Rashtrapati Bhavan,
New Delhi.

We shall first deal with the question as to the essence of the judgment in Bommai’s case (supra). 

Lot of arguments have been advanced as to the true essence of the conclusions arrived at in Bommai’s case (supra) and the view expressed as regards the scopeof judicial review. In A.K. Kaul and Anr. v. Union of India and Anr. (1995 (4) SCC 73), the position was summed up as follows:

"21. It would thus appear that in S. R. Bommai though all the learned Judges have held that the exercise of powers under Article 356(1) is subject to judicial review but in the matter of justiciability of the satisfaction of the President, the view of the majority (Pandian, Ahmadi, Verma Agrawal, Yogeshwar Dayal and Jeevan Reedy, JJ.) is that the principles evolved in Barium Chemicals for adjudging the validity of an action based on the subjective satisfaction of the authority created by statute do not, in their entirety, apply to the exercise of a constitutional power under Article 356. On the basis of the judgment of Jeevan Reddy, J., which takes a narrower view than that taken by Sawant, J., it can be said that the view of the majority (Pandian, Kuldip Singh, Sawant, Agrawal and Jeevan Reddy, JJ.) is that:

(i) the satisfaction of the President while making a Proclamation under Article 356 (1) is justiciable;

(ii) it would be open to challenge on the ground of mala fides or being based wholly on extraneous and or irrelevant grounds;

(iii) even if some of the materials on which the action is taken is found to be irrelevant, the court would still not interferes so long as there is some relevant material sustaining the action;

(iv) the truth or correctness of the material cannot be questioned by the court nor will it go into the adequacy of the material and it will also not substitute it opinion for that of the President;

(v) the ground of mala fides takes in inter alia situations where the Proclamation is found to be a clear case a abuse of power or what is sometimes called fraud on power;

(vi) the court will not lightly presume abuse or misuse of power and will make allowance of the fact that the president and the Union Council of Ministers are the best judge of the situation and that they are also in possession of information and material and that the Constitution has trusted their judgment in the matter; and

(vii) this does not mean that the President and the Council of Ministers are the final arbiters in the matter or that their opinion is conclusive."

If the State of Rajasthan’s case (supra) and Bommai’s case (supra) are read together it is crystal clear that in Bommai’s case, the scope of judicial review as set out in the State of Rajasthan’s case (supra) was elaborated as is clear from the summation in A.K. Kaul’s case (supra).

Lord Greene said in 1948 in the famous Wednesbury case (1948 (1) KB 223s) that when a statute gave discretion to an administrator to take a decision, the scope of judicial review would remain limited. He said that interference was not permissible unless one or the other of the following conditions was satisfied, namely the order was contrary to law, or relevant factors were not considered, or irrelevant factors were considered; or the decision was one which no reasonable person could have taken. Lord Diplock in Council for Civil Services Union v. Minister of Civil Service [(1983) 1 AC 768] (called the CCSU case) summarized the principles of judicial review of administrative action as based upon one or other of the following viz., illegality, procedural irregularity and irrationality. He, however, opined that "proportionality" was a "future possibility".

In Om Kumar and Ors. v. Union of India (2001 (2) SCC 386), this Court observed, inter alia, as follows:

"The principle originated in Prussia in the nineteenth century and has since been adopted in Germany, France and other European countries. The European Court of Justice at Luxembourg and the European Court of Human Rights at Strasbourg have applied the principle while judging the validity of administrative action. But even long before that, the Indian Supreme Court has applied the principle of "proportionality" to legislative action since 1950, as stated in detail below.

By "proportionality", we mean the question whether, while regulating exercise of fundamental rights, the appropriate or least-restrictive choice of measures has been made by the legislature or the administrator so as to achieve the object of the legislation or the purpose of the administrative order, as the case may be. Under the principle, the court will see that the legislature and the administrative authority "maintain a proper balance between the adverse effects which the legislation or the administrative order may have on the rights, liberties or interests of persons keeping in mind the purpose which they were intended to serve". The legislature and the administrative authority are, however, given an area of discretion or a range of choices but as to whether the choice made infringes the rights excessively or not is for the court. That is what is meant by proportionality.

The development of the principle of "strict scrutiny" or "proportionality" in administrative law in England is, however, recent. Administrative action was traditionally being tested on Wednesbury grounds. But in the last few years, administrative action affecting the freedom of expression or liberty has been declared invalid in several cases applying the principle of "strict scrutiny". In the case of these freedoms, Wednesbury principles are no longer applied. The courts in England could not expressly apply proportionality in the absence of the convention but tried to safeguard the rights zealously by treating the said rights as basic to the common law and the courts then applied the strict scrutiny test. In the Spycatcher case Attorney General v. Guardian Newspapers Ltd. (No.2) (1990) 1 AC 109 (at pp. 283-284), Lord Goff stated that there was no inconsistency between the convention and the common law. In Derbyshire County Council v. Times Newspapers Ltd. (1993) AC 534, Lord Keith treated freedom of expression as part of common law. Recently, in R. v. Secy. Of State for Home Deptt., ex p. Simms (1999) 3 All ER 400 (HL), the right of a prisoner to grant an interview to a journalist was upheld treating the right as part of the common law. Lord Hobhouse held that the policy of the administrator was disproportionate. The need for a more intense and anxious judicial scrutiny in administrative decisions which engage fundamental human rights was reemphasised in in R. v. Lord Saville exp (1999) 4 All ER 860 (CA), at pp.870,872) . In all these cases, the English Courts applied the "strict scrutiny" test rather than describe the test as one of "proportionality". But, in any event, in respect of these rights "Wednesbury" rule has ceased to apply.

However, the principle of "strict scrutiny" or "proportionality" and primary review came to be explained in R. v. Secy. of State for the Home Deptt. exp Brind (1991) 1 AC 696. That case related to directions given by the Home Secretary under the Broadcasting Act, 1981 requiring BBC and IBA to refrain from broadcasting certain matters through persons who represented organizations which were proscribed under legislation concerning the prevention of terrorism. The extent of prohibition was linked with the direct statement made by the members of the organizations. It did not however, for example, preclude the broadcasting by such persons through the medium of a film, provided there was a "voice-over" account, paraphrasing what they said. The applicant’s claim was based directly on the European Convention of Human Rights. Lord Bridge noticed that the Convention rights were not still expressly engrafted into English law but stated that freedom of expression was basic to the Common law and that, even in the absence of the Convention, English Courts could go into the question (see p. 748-49).

".....whether the Secretary of State, in the exercise of his discretion, could reasonably impose the restriction he has imposed on the broadcasting organisations"

and that the courts were

"not perfectly entitled to start from the premise that any restriction of the right to freedom of expression requires to be justified and nothing less than an important public interest will be sufficient to justify it".

Lord Templeman also said in the above case that the courts could go into the question whether a reasonable minister could reasonably have concluded that the interference with this freedom was justifiable. He said that "in terms of the Convention" any such interference must be both necessary and proportionate (ibid pp. 75051).

In the famous passage, the seeds of the principle of primary and secondary review by courts were planted in the administrative law by Lord Bridge in the Brind case (1991) 1 AC 696. Where Convention rights were in question the courts could exercise a right of primary review. However, the courts would exercise a right of secondary review based only on Wednesbury principles in cases not affecting the rights under the Convention. Adverting to cases where fundamental freedoms were not invoked and where administrative action was questioned, it was said that the courts were then confined only to a secondary review while the primary decision would be with the administrator. Lord Bridge explained the primary and secondary review as follows:

"The primary judgment as to whether the particular competing public interest justifying the particular restriction imposed falls to be made by the Secretary of State to whom Parliament has entrusted the discretion. But, we are entitled to exercise a secondary judgment by asking whether a reasonable Secretary of State, on the material before him, could reasonably make the primary judgment."

In Union of India and Anr. vs. G. Ganayutham (1997 [7] SCC 463), in paragraph 31 this Court observed as follows:

"31. The current position of proportionality in administrative law in England and India can be summarized as follows:

(1) To judge the validity of any administrative order or statutory discretion, normally the Wednesbury test is to be applied to find out if the decision was illegal or suffered from procedural improprieties or was one which no sensible decision-maker could, on the material before him and within the framework of the law, have arrived at. The court would consider whether relevant matters had not been taken into account or whether irrelevant matters had been taken into account or whether the action was not bona fide. The court would also consider whether the decision was absurd or perverse. The court would not however go into the correctness of the choice made by the administrator amongst the various alternatives open to him. Nor could the court substitute its decision to that of the administrator. This is the Wednesbury (1948 1 KB 223) test.

(2) The court would not interfere with the administrator’s decision unless it was illegal or suffered from procedural impropriety or was irrational – in the sense that it was in outrageous defiance of logic or moral standards. The possibility of other tests, including proportionality being brought into English administrative law in future is not ruled out. These are the CCSU (1985 AC 374) principles.

(3) (a) As per Bugdaycay (1987 AC 514), Brind (1991 (1) AC 696) and Smith (1996 (1) All ER 257) as long as the Convention is not incorporated into English law, the English courts merely exercise a secondary judgment to find out if the decision-maker could have, on the material before him, arrived at the primary judgment in the manner he has done.

(3) (b) If the Convention is incorporated in England making available the principle of proportionality, then the English courts will render primary judgment on the validity of the administrative action and find out if the restriction is disproportionate or excessive or is not based upon a fair balancing of the fundamental freedom and the need for the restriction thereupon.

(4) (a) The position in our country, in administrative law, where no fundamental freedoms as aforesaid are involved, is that the courts/tribunals will only play a secondary role while the primary judgment as to reasonableness will remain with the executive or administrative authority. The secondary judgment of the court is to be based on Wednesbury and CCSU principles as stated by Lord Greene and Lord Diplock respectively to find if the executive or administrative authority has reasonably arrived at his decision as the primary authority".

The common thread running through in all these decisions is that the Court should not interfere with the administrator’s decision unless it was illogical or suffers from procedural impropriety or was shocking to the conscience of the Court, in the sense that it was in defiance of logic or moral standards. In view of what has been stated in the Wednesbury’s case (supra) the Court would not go into the correctness of the choice made by the administrator open to him and the Court should not substitute its decision to that of the administrator. The scope of judicial review is limited to the deficiency in decision-making process and not the decision.

According to Wade, Administrative Law (9th Edition) is the law relating to the control of powers of the executive authorities. To consider why such a law became necessary, we have to consider its historical background.

Up to the 19th century the functions of the State in England were confined to (i) defence of the country from foreign invasion, and (ii) maintenance of law and order within the country.

This vast expansion in the State functions resulted in large number of legislations and also for wide delegation of State functions by Parliament to executive authorities, so also was there a need to create a body of legal principles to control and to check misuse of these new powers conferred on the State authorities in this new situation in the public interest. Thus, emerged Administrative Law. Maitland pointed out in his Constitutional History:

"Year by year the subordinate Government of England is becoming more and more important. We are becoming a much governed nation, governed by all manner of councils and boards and officers, central and local, high and low, exercising the powers which have been committed to them by modern statutes."

But in the early 20th century following the tradition of Dicey's classic exposition in his: The Law of the Constitution, there was a spate of attacks on parliamentary delegation culminating in the book New Despotism by the then Chief Justice of England, Lord Hewart published in 1929. In response, the British Government in 1932 set up a committee called the Committee on Ministerial Powers headed by Lord Donoughmore, to examine these complaints and criticisms. However, the Donoughmore Committee rejected the argument of Lord Hewart and accepted the reality that a modern State cannot function without delegation of vast powers to the executive authorities, though there must be some control on them.

In R. v. Lancashire CC, exp Huddleston [1986 (2) All ER 941 (CA)], it was said about Administrative Law that it 

"has created a new relationship between the courts and those who derive their authority from the public law, one of partnership based on a common aim, namely, the maintenance of the highest standards of public administration".

In Liversidge v. Anderson (1941 (3) All E.R. 338 (HL) the case related to the Defence (General) Regulations, 1939 which provided:

"If the Secretary of State has reasonable cause to believe any person to be of hostile origin or association he may make an order against that person directing that he be detained."

The detenu Liversidge challenged the detention order passed against him by the Secretary of State. The majority of the House of Lords, except Lord Atkin, held that the Court could not interfere because the Secretary of State had mentioned in his order that he had reasonable cause to believe that Liversidge was a person of hostile origin or association. Liversidge was delivered during the Second World War when the executive authority had unbridled powers to detain a person without even disclosing to the Court on what basis the Secretary had reached to his belief. However, subsequently, the British courts accepted Lord Atkin's dissenting view that there must be some relevant material on the basis of which the satisfaction of the Secretary of State could be formed. Also, the discretion must be exercised keeping in view the purpose for which it was conferred and the object sought to be achieved, and must be exercised within the four corners of the statute (See: Clariant International Ltd. and Another v. Securities and Exchange Board of India (2004(8) SCC 524)

Sometimes a power is coupled with a duty. Thus, a limited judicial review against administrative action is always available to the Courts. Even after elaboration in Bommai’s case (supra) the scope for judicial review in respect of Governors’ action cannot be put on the same pedestal as that of other administrative orders. As observed in Para 376 of judgment in Bommai’s case (supra) the scope of judicial review would depend upon facts of the given case. There may be cases which do not admit of judicial prognosis. The principles which are applicable when an administrative action is challenged cannot be applied stricto sensu to challenges made in respect of proclamation under Article 356. However, in view of what is observed explicitly in Bommai’s case (supra), the proclamation under Article 356(1) is not legislative in character.

A person entrusted with discretion must, so to speak, direct himself properly in law. He must call his attention to matters which he is bound to consider. He must exclude from his consideration matters which are irrelevant to what he has to consider. If he does not obey those rules he may truly be said to be acting unreasonably. Similarly, there may be something so absurd that no sensible person could ever dream that it lay within the powers of the authority.

It is an unwritten rule of the law, constitutional and administrative, that whenever a decision-making function is entrusted to the subjective satisfaction of a statutory functionary, there is an implicit obligation to apply his mind to pertinent and proximate matters only, eschewing the irrelevant and the remote. (See: Smt. Shalini Soni and Ors. v. Union of India and others 1980 (4) SCC 544).

The Wednesbury principle is often misunderstood to mean that any administrative decision which is regarded by the Court to be unreasonable must be struck down. The correct understanding of the Wednesbury principle is that a decision will be said to be unreasonable in the Wednesbury sense if (i) it is based on wholly irrelevant material or wholly irrelevant consideration, (ii) it has ignored a very relevant material which it should have taken into consideration, or (iii) it is so absurd that no sensible person could ever have reached to it.

As observed by Lord Diplock in CCSU’s case (supra) a decision will be said to suffer from Wednesbury unreasonableness if it is "so outrageous in its defiance of logic or of accepted moral standards that no sensible person who had applied his mind to the question to be decided could have arrived at it".

A Constitution is a unique legal document. It enshrines a special kind of norm and stands at the top of normative pyramid. Difficult to amend, it is designed to direct human behavior for years to come. It shapes the appearance of the State and its aspirations throughout history. It determines the State‘s fundamental political views. It lays the foundation for its social values. It determines its commitments and orientations. It reflects the events of the past. It lays the foundation for the present. It determines how the future will look. It is philosophy, politics, society, and law all in one. Performance of all these tasks by a Constitution requires a balance of its subjective and objective elements, because "it is a constitution we are expounding." As Chief Justice Dickson of the Supreme Court of Canada noted:

"The task of expounding a constitution is crucially different from that of construing a statute. A statute defines present rights and obligations. It is easily enacted and as easily repealed. A constitution, by contrast, is drafted with an eye to the future. Its function is to provide a continuing framework for the legitimate exercise of governmental power and, when joined by a Bill or Charter of rights, for the unremitting protection of individual rights and liberties. Once enacted, its provisions cannot easily be repealed or amended. It must, therefore, be capable of growth and development over time to meet new social, political and historical realities often unimagined by it framers. The judiciary is the guardian of the constitution and must, in interpreting its provisions, bear these considerations in mind."

The political question doctrine, in particular, remits entire areas of public life to Congress and the President, on the grounds that the Constitution assigns responsibility for these areas to the other branches, or that their resolution will involve discretionary, polycentric decisions that lack discrete criteria for adjudication and thus are better handled by the more democratic branches. By foreclosing judicial review, even regarding the minimal rationality of the political branches’ discretionary choices, the doctrine denies federal judges a role in "giving proper meaning to our public value" in important substantive fields. (Quoted from an Article in Harvard Law Review).

Democratic Theory is based on a notion of human dignity: as beings worthy of respect because of their very nature, adults must enjoy a large degree of autonomy, a status principally attainable in the modern world by being able to share in the Governance of their community. Because direct rule is not feasible for the mass of citizens, most people can share in self government only by delegating authority to freely chosen representatives. Thus Justice Hugo L. Black expressed a critical tenet of democratic theory when he wrote: "No right is more precious in a free country than that of having a voice in the election of those who make the laws under which we...must live."

For democratic theory, what makes governmental decisions morally binding is process: the people’s freely choosing representatives, those representatives’ debating and enacting policy and later standing for re-election, and administrators’ enforcing that policy. Democratic theory, therefore, tends to embrace both positivism and moral relativism.

Whereas democratic theory turns to moral relativism, constitutionalism turns to moral realism. It presumes that "out there" lurk discoverable standards to judge whether public policies infringe on human dignity. The legitimacy of a policy depends not simply on the authenticity of decision makers’ credentials but also on substantive criteria. Even with the enthusiastic urging of a massive majority whose representatives have meticulously observed proper processes, government may not trample on fundamental rights. For constitutionalists, political morality cannot be weighed on a scale in which "opinion is an omnipotence," only against the moral criterion of sacred, individual rights. They agree with Jafferson: "An elective despotism was not the government we fought for......" (From Constitutions, Constitutionalism, and Democracy by Walter F. Murphy).

Allegation of mala-fides without any supportable basis is the last feeble attempt of a losing litigant, otherwise it will create a smokescreen on the scope of judicial review. This is a pivotal issue around which the fate of this case revolves. As was noted in A.K. Kaul’s case (supra) the satisfaction of the President is justiciable. It would be open to challenge on the ground of mala fides or being based wholly on extraneous or irrelevant grounds. The sufficiency or the correctness of the factual position indicated in the report is not open to judicial review. The truth or correctness of the materials cannot be questioned by the Court nor would it go into the adequacy of the material and it would also not substitute its opinion for that of the President. Interference is called for only when there is clear case of abuse of power or what is some times called fraud on power. The Court will not lightly presume abuse or misuse of power and will make allowance for the fact that the decision making authority is the best judge of the situation. If the Governor would have formed his opinion for dissolution with the sole objective of preventing somebody from staking a claim it would clearly be extraneous and irrational. The question whether such person would be in a position to form a stable government is essentially the subjective opinion of the Governor; of course to be based on objective materials. The basic issue therefore is did the Governor act on extraneous and irrelevant materials for coming to the conclusion that there was no possibility of stable government.

According to the petitioners, the question whether there was any allurement or horse trading (an expression frequently used in such cases) or allurement of any kind is not a matter which can be considered by the Governor. The scope of judicial review of Governor’s decision does not and cannot stand on the same footing as that of any other administrative decision. In almost all legal inquiries intention as distinguished from motive is the all important factor and in common parlance a malicious act stands equated with an intentional act without just cause or excuse. Whereas fairness is synonymous with reasonableness bias stand included within the attributes and broader purview of the word "malice" which in common acceptation implies "spite" or "ill will". Mere general statements will not be sufficient for the purpose of indication of ill will. There must be cogent evidence available on record to come to a conclusion as to whether in fact there was bias or mala fide involved which resulted in the miscarriage of justice. The tests of real likelihood and reasonable suspicion are really inconsistent with each other. (See S. Parthasarthi v. State of A.P. (1974 (3) SCC 459). The word ‘bias’ is to denote a departure from the standing of even handed justice. (See: Franklin vs. Minister of Town and Country Planning (1947 2 All ER 289 (HL).

In State of Punjab v. V.K. Khanna and Ors. (2001 (2) SCC 330), it was observed as follows: 

"Incidentally, Lord Thankerton in Franklin v. Minister of Town and Country Planning (1948 AC 87 : (1947) 2 All ER 289 (HL) opined that the word "bias" is to denote a departure from the standing of even-handed justice. Kumaon Mandal Vikas Nigam Ltd. v. Girja Shankar case ((2001) 1 SCC 182) further noted the different note sounded by the English Courts in the manner following : (SCC pp.199-201, paras 30-34)

"30. Recently however, the English courts have sounded a different note, though may not be substantial but the automatic disqualification theory rule stands to some extent diluted. The affirmation of this dilution however is dependent upon the facts and circumstances of the matter in issue. The House of Lords in the case of R. v. Bow Street Metropolitan Stipendiary Magistrate, ex p Pinochet Ugarte (No. 2) ((2000) 1 AC 119) observed:

'... In civil litigation the matters in issue will normally have an economic impact; therefore a Judge is automatically disqualified if he stands to make a financial gain as a consequence of his own decision of the case. But if, as in the present case, the matter at issue does not relate to money or economic advantage but is concerned with the promotion of the cause, the rationale disqualifying a Judge applies just as much if the Judge's decision will lead to the promotion of a cause in which the Judge is involved together with one of the parties.'

31. Lord Brown-Wilkinson at p. 136 of the report stated :

'It is important not to overstate what is being decided. It was suggested in argument that a decision setting aside the order of 25-11-1998 would lead to a position where Judges would be unable to sit on cases involving charities in whose work they are involved. It is suggested that, because of such involvement, a Judge would be disqualified. That is not correct. The facts of this present case are exceptional. The critical elements are (1) that A.I. was a party to the appeal; (2) that A.I. was joined in order to argue for a particular result; (3) the Judge was a director of a charity closely allied to A.I. and sharing, in this respect, A.I.'s objects. Only in cases where a Judge is taking an active role as trustee or director of a charity which is closely allied to and acting with a party to the litigation should a Judge normally be concerned either to recuse himself or disclose the position to the parties. However, there may well be other exceptional cases in which the Judge would be well advised to disclose a possible interest.'

Lord Hutton also in Pinochet case ((2000) 1 AC 119) observed :

'There could be cases where the interest of the Judge in the subject-matter of the proceedings arising from his strong commitment to some cause or belief or his association with a person or body involved in the proceedings could shake public confidence in the administration of justice as much as a shareholding (which might be small) in a public company involved in the litigation.'

33. Incidentally in Locabail [Locabail (U.K.) Ltd. v. Bayfield Properties Ltd. (2000 QB 451)] the Court of Appeal upon a detail analysis of the oft-cited decision in R. v. Gough (1993 AC 646) together with the Dimes case (Dimes v. Grand Junction Canal, (1853) 3 HL Cas 759 : 10 ER 301), Pinochet case ((2000) 1 AC 119), Australian High Court's decision in the case of J.R.L., ex p C.J.L., Re ((1986) 161 CLR 342) as also the Federal Court in Ebner, Re ((1999) 161 ALR 557) and on the decision of the Constitutional Court of South Africa in President of the Republic of South Africa v. South African Rugby Football Union ((1999) 4 SA 147) stated that it would be rather dangerous and futile to attempt to define or list the factors which may or may not give rise to a real danger of bias. The Court of Appeal continued to the effect that everything will depend upon facts which may include the nature of the issue to be decided. It further observed :

'By contrast, a real danger of bias might well be thought to arise if there were personal friendship or animosity between the Judge and any member of the public involved in the case; or if the Judge were closely acquainted with any member of the public involved in the case, particularly if the credibility of that individual could be significant in the decision of the case; or if, in a case where the credibility of any individual were an issue to be decided by the Judge, he had in a previous case rejected the evidence of that person in such outspoken terms as to throw doubt on his ability to approach such person's evidence with an open mind on any later occasion; or if on any question at issue in the proceedings before him the Judge had expressed views, particularly in the course of the hearing, in such extreme and unbalanced terms as to throw doubt on his ability to try the issue with an objective judicial mind (Vakuta v. Kelly ((1989) 167 CLR 568)); or if, for any other reason, there were real ground for doubting the ability of the Judge to ignore extraneous considerations, prejudices and predilections and bring an objective judgment to bear on the issues before him. The mere fact that a Judge, earlier in the same case or in a previous case, had commented adversely on a party-witness, or found the evidence of a party or witness to be unreliable, would not without more found a sustainable objection. In most cases, we think, the answer, one way or the other, will be obvious. But if in any case there is real ground for doubt, that doubt should be resolved in favour of recusal. We repeat: every application must be decided on the facts and circumstances of the individual case. The greater the passage of time between the event relied on as showing a danger of bias and the case in which the objection is raised, the weaker (other things being equal) the objection will be.'

34. The Court of Appeal judgment in Locabail (200 QB 451) though apparently as noticed above sounded a different note but in fact, in more occasions than one in the judgment itself, it has been clarified that conceptually the issue of bias ought to be decided on the facts and circumstances of the individual case a slight shift undoubtedly from the original thinking pertaining to the concept of bias to the effect that a mere apprehension of bias could otherwise be sufficient."

In Bommai’s case (supra) though all the learned Judges held that exercise of power under Article 356(1) of the Constitution is subject to judicial review but in the matter of justiciability of the satisfaction of the President, the majority view was to the effect that the principles evolved in Barium Chemicals Ltd. and Anr. v. Company Law Board and Ors. (AIR 1967 SC 295) for  adjudging the validity of an action based on the subjective satisfaction of the authority created by the Statute do not in their entirety apply to the exercise of constitutional power under Article 356 of the Constitution. Mala fide intent or biased attitude cannot to be put on a strait-jacket formula but depend upon facts and circumstances of each case and in that perspective judicial precedent would not be of much assistance. It is important to note that in Bommai’s case (supra) this Court was concerned with cases of dissolution of Assemblies when cabinets were in office. Though at first flush, it appears that the factual background in Karnataka’s case (supra) dealt with in Bommai’s case (supra) has lot of similarity with the factual position in hand, yet on a deeper analysis the position does not appear to be so. The factual position was peculiar. In the instant case, the Governor’s report reveals that the source of his opinion was intelligence reports, media reports and discussions with functionaries of various parties. A plea was raised by the petitioners that it has not been indicated as to functionaries of which party the Governor had discussed with. That cannot be a ground to hold the report to be vulnerable. As was noted in Bommai’s case (supra) the sufficiency or correctness of factual aspects cannot be dealt with. Therefore, as noted above, the only question which needs to be decided is whether the conclusions of the Governor that if foul means are adopted to cobble the majority it would be against the spirit of democracy. Again the question would be if means are foul can the Governor ignore it and can it be said that his view is extraneous or irrational.

In the report dated 27.4.2005 to which reference has been made in the report dated 21.5.2005 reference is made to allurements like money, caste, posts etc. and this has been termed as a disturbing feature. In both the reports, the opinion of the Governor is that if these attempts are allowed to continue, it would amount to tampering with constitutional provisions. Stand of the petitioners is that even if it is accepted to be correct, there is no constitutional provision empowering the Governor to make the same basis for not allowing a claim to be staked. This argument does not appear to be totally sound.

In Kihoto Hollohan v. Zachillhu and Ors. (1992 Supp (2) SCC 651) the menace of defection was noted with concern and the validity of the Tenth Schedule was upheld. While upholding the validity of the provision this Court in no uncertain terms deprecated the change of loyalties to parties and the craze for power. The Statement of Objects and Reasons appended to the Constitution (52nd Amendment) Act, 1985 refer to the evil of political defection which has been the matter of national concern. It was noted that if it is not combated it is likely to undermine the very foundation of our democracy and the principles which sustain it. It was noted as follows:

"26. In expounding the processes of the fundamental law, the Constitution must be treated as a logical whole. Westel Woodbury Willoughby in The Constitutional Law of the United States nd Edn. Vol.1 p.65) states: 

"The Constitution is a logical whole, each provision of which is an integral part thereof, and it is, therefore, logically proper, and indeed imperative, to construe one part in the light of the provisions of the other parts."

27. A constitutional document outlines only broad and general principles meant to endure and be capable of flexible application to changing circumstances – a distinction which differentiates a statute from a Charter under which all statutes are made. Cooley on Constitutional Limitations (8th edn. Vol.1, p.129) says:

"Upon the adoption of an amendment to a Constitution, the amendment becomes a part thereof; as much so as it had been originally incorporated in the Constitution; and it is to be construed accordingly."

Again, in paragraph 41, the position was illuminatingly stated by Mr. Justice M.N. Venkatachaliah (as His Lordship then was). A right to elect, fundamental though it is to democracy is anomalously enough neither a fundamental right nor a common law right. It is pure and simple, a statutory right. So it is the right to be elected. So is the right to dispute an election. Outside of statute, there is no right to elect, no right to be elected and no right to dispute an election. Statutory creations they are and therefore subject to statutory limitation.(See Jyoti Basu and Ors. v. Debi Ghosal and Ors. (1982 (1) SCC 691).

Democracy as noted above is the basic feature of the Constitution. In paragraphs 44 and 49 of Kihoto’s case (supra) it was noted as follows:

"44. But a political party functions on the strength of shared beliefs. Its own political stability and social utility depends on such shared beliefs and concerted action of its Members in furtherance of those commonly held principles. Any freedom of its Members to vote as they please independently of the political party’s declared policies will not only embarrass its public image and popularity but also undermine public confidence in it which, in the ultimate analysis, is its source f sustenance – nay, indeed, its very survival. Intra party debates are of course a different thing. But a public image of disparate stands by Members of the same political party is not looked upon, in political tradition, as a desirable state of things. Griffith and Ryle on Parliament Functions, Practice and Procedure (1989 Edn., p.119) says;

"Loyalty to party is the norm, being based on shared beliefs. A divided party is looked on with suspicion by the electorate. It is natural for Members to accept the opinion of their Leaders and Spokesmen on the wide variety of matters on which those members have no specialist knowledge. Generally Members will accept majority decisions in the party even when they disagree. It is understandable therefore that a Member who rejects the party whip even on a single occasion will attract attention and more criticism than sympathy. To abstain from voting when required by party to vote is to suggest a degree of unreliability. To vote against party is disloyalty. To join with others in abstention or voting with the other side smacks of conspiracy.

49. Indeed, in a sense an anti-defection law is a statutory variant of its moral principle and justification underlying the power of recall. What might justify a provision for recall would justify a provision for dis-qualification for defection. Unprincipled defection is a political and social evil. It is perceived as such by the legislature. People, apparently, have grown distrustful of the emotive political exultations that such floor-crossing belong to the sacred area of freedom of conscience, or of the right to dissent or of intellectual freedom. The anti-defection law seeks to recognize the practical need to place the proprieties of political and personal conduct – whose awkward erosion and grotesque manifestations have been the bane of the times –above certain theoretical assumptions which in reality have fallen into a morass of personal and political degradation. We should, we think, defer to this legislative wisdom and perception. The choices in constitutional adjudications quite clearly indicate the need for such deference. "Let the end be legitimate, let it be within the scope of the Constitution and all means which are appropriate, which are adopted to that end..." are constitutional."

Therefore, the well recognised position in law is that purity in the electorate process and the conduct of the elected representative cannot be isolated from the constitutional requirements. "Democracy" and "Free and Fair Election" are inseparable twins. There is almost an inseverable umbilical cord joining them. In a democracy the little man-voter has  overwhelming importance and cannot be hijacked from the course of free and fair elections. His freedom to elect a candidate of his choice is the foundation of a free and fair election. But after getting elected, if the elected candidate deviates from the course of fairness and purity and becomes a "Purchasable commodity" he not only betrays the electorate, but also pollutes the pure stream of democracy.

Can the governor whose constitutional duty is to safeguard the purity throw up his hands in abject helplessness in such situations?

As noted by this Court in People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) and Anr. v. Union of India and Anr. (2003 (4) SCC 399) a well informed voter is the foundation of democratic structure. If that be so, can it be said that the Governor will remain mute and silent spectator when the elected representatives act in a manner contrary to the expectations of the voters who had voted for them. In paragraph 94 of it was noted as follows:

"94. The trite saying that 'democracy is for the people, of the people and by the people' has to be remembered for ever. In a democratic republic, it is the will of the people that is paramount and becomes the basis of the authority of the Government. The will is expressed in periodic elections based on universal adult suffrage held by means of secret ballot. It is through the ballot that the voter expresses his choice or preference for a candidate. "Voting is formal expression of will or opinion by the person entitled to exercise the right on the subject or issue", as observed by this Court in Lily Thomas Vs. Speaker, Lok Sabha [(1993) 4 SCC 234] quoting from Black's Law Dictionary. The citizens of the country are enabled to take part in the Government through their chosen representatives. In a Parliamentary democracy like ours, the Government of the day is responsible to the people through their elected representatives. The elected representative acts or is supposed to act as a live link between the people and the Government. The peoples' representatives fill the role of law-makers and custodians of Government. People look to them for ventilation and redressal of their grievances. They are the focal point of the will and authority of the people at large. The moment they put in papers for contesting the election, they are subjected to public gaze and public scrutiny. The character, strength and weakness of the candidate is widely debated. Nothing is therefore more important for sustenance of democratic polity than the voter making an intelligent and rational choice of his or her representative. For this, the voter should be in a position to effectively formulate his/her opinion and to ultimately express that opinion through ballot by casting the vote. The concomitant of the right to vote which is the basic postulate of democracy is thus two fold: first, formulation of opinion about the candidates and second, the expression of choice by casting the vote in favour of the preferred candidate at the polling booth. The first step is complementary to the other. Many a voter will be handicapped in formulating the opinion and making a proper choice of the candidate unless the essential information regarding the candidate is available. The voter/citizen should have at least the basic information about the contesting candidate, such as his involvement in serious criminal offences. To scuttle the flow of information-relevant and essential would affect the electorate's ability to evaluate the candidate. Not only that, the information relating to the candidates will pave the way for public debate on the merits and demerits of the candidates. When once there is public disclosure of the relevant details concerning the candidates, the Press, as a media of mass communication and voluntary organizations vigilant enough to channel the public opinion on right lines will be able to disseminate the information and thereby enlighten and alert the public at large regarding the adverse antecedents of a candidate. It will go a long way in promoting the freedom of speech and expression. That goal would be accomplished in two ways. It will help the voter who is interested in seeking and receiving information about the candidate to form an opinion according to his or her conscience and best of judgment and secondly it will facilitate the Press and voluntary organizations in imparting information on a matter of vital public concern. An informed voter-whether he acquires information directly by keeping track of disclosures or through the Press and other channels of communication, will be able to fulfil his responsibility in a more satisfactory manner. An enlightened and informed citizenry would undoubtedly enhance democratic values. Thus, the availability of proper and relevant information about the candidate fosters and promotes the freedom of speech and expression both from the point of view of imparting and receiving the information. In turn, it would lead to the preservation of the integrity of electoral process which is so essential for the growth of democracy. Though I do not go to the extent of remarking that the election will be a farce if the candidates' antecedents are not known to the voters, I would say that such information will certainly be conducive to fairness in election process and integrity in public life. The disclosure of information would facilitate and augment the freedom of expression both from the point of view of the voter as well as the media through which the information is publicized and openly debated."

There is no place for hypocrisy in democracy. The Governor’s perception about his power may be erroneous, but it is certainly not extraneous or irrational. It has been rightly contended by learned counsel for the Union of India that apart of Governor’s role to ensure that the Government is stable, the case may not be covered by the Tenth Schedule and it cannot be said that by avoiding the Tenth Schedule by illegitimate or tainted means a majority if gathered leaves the Governor helpless, and a silent onlooker to the tampering of mandate by dishonest means. It is not and cannot be said that by preventing a claim to be staked the Governor does not act irrationally or on extraneous premises. Had the Governor acted with the object of preventing anyone from staking a claim his action would have been vulnerable. The conduct of the Governor may be suspicious and may be so in the present case, but if his opinion about the adoption of tainted means is supportable by tested materials, certainly it cannot be extraneous or irrational. It would all depend upon the facts of each case. If the Governor in a particular case without tested or unimpeachable material merely makes an observation that tainted means are being adopted, the same would attract judicial review. But in the instant case there is some material on which the Governor has acted. This ultimately is a case of subjective satisfaction based on objective materials. On the factual background one thing is very clear i.e. no claim was staked and on the contrary the materials on record show what was being projected. It is also clear from a bare perusal of the documents which the petitioners have themselves enclosed to the writ petitions that authenticity of the documents is suspect.

Judicial response to human rights cannot be blunted by legal jugglery. (See: Bhupinder Sharma v. State of Himachal Pradesh 2003(8) SCC 551). Justice has no favourite other than the truth. Reasonableness, rationality, legality as well as philosophically provide colour to the meaning of fundamental rights. What is morally wrong cannot be politically right. The petitioners themselves have founded their claims on documents which do not have even shadow of genuineness so far as claim of majority is concerned. If the Governor felt that what was being done was morally wrong, it cannot be treated as politically right. This is his perception. It may be erroneous. It may not be specifically spelt out by the Constitution so far as his powers are concerned. But it ultimately is a perception. Though erroneous it cannot be termed as extraneous or irrational. Therefore however suspicious conduct of the Governor may be, and even if it is accepted that he had acted in hot haste it cannot be a ground to term his action as extraneous. A shadow of doubt about bona fides does not lead to an inevitable conclusion about mala fides.

We may hasten to add that similar perceptions by Governors may lead to chaotic conditions. There may be human errors. Therefore, the concerned Governor has to act carefully with care and caution and can draw his inference from tested and unimpeachable material; otherwise not.

In B.R. Kapur v. State of Tamil Nadu and Anr. (AIR 2001 SC 3435) this Court considered the role of the Governor in appointing the Chief Minister. It was held that the Governor can exercise his discretion and can decline to make the appointment when the person chosen by the majority party is not qualified to be member of Legislature. It was observed that in such a case the Constitution prevails over the will of the people. It was further observed that accepting submissions as were made in that case that the Governor exercising powers under Article 164(1) read with (4) was obliged to appoint as Chief Minister whosoever the majority party in the Legislature nominated, regardless of whether or not the person nominated was qualified to be a member of the legislature under Article 173 or was disqualified in that behalf under Article 191,and the only manner in which a Chief Minister who was not qualified or who was disqualified could be removed was by a vote of no-confidence in the legislature or by the electorate at the next elections and that the Governor was so obliged even when the person recommended was, to the Governor’s knowledge, a non-citizen, under age, a lunatic or an undischarged insolvent, and the only way in which a non-citizen, or under age or lunatic or insolvent Chief Minister could be removed was by a vote of no-confidence in the legislature or at the next election, is to invite disaster.

The situation cannot be different when the Chief Minister nominated was to head a Ministry which had its foundation on taint and the majority is cobbled by unethical means or corrupt means. As was observed in B.R. Kapur’s case (supra) in such an event the constitutional purity has to be maintained and the Constitution has to prevail over the will of the people.

With these conclusions the writ applications could have been disposed of. But, taking note of some of the disturbing features highlighted by learned counsel about the suspicious and apparently indefensible roles of some Governors, it is necessary to deal with some of the relevant aspects.

1.1: Majority Judgment: Chief Justice of India, Y.K. Sabharwal, Justice B.N. Agrawal and Justice Ashok Bhan

2.1: Dissenting Judgment: Justice K.G. Balakrishnan

 


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