Verdict-Out Buta

In a landmark judgment on Tuesday, January 24, a five-judge Constitutional bench of the Supreme Court has held that the position taken by Governor Buta Singh and the subsequent report send by him to the Centre asking for the dissolution of the Bihar assembly earlier last year was unconstitutional. The latest indictment by the country’s apex court should be seen as restoring a semblance of balance against the excess created by the decision of the executive. The apex court in essence has upheld the supremacy of the constitution which in itself should be welcomed. 

While the Governor, has done the right thing by finally resigning, the damage done to his self and the Manmohan Singh led UPA government could have been well avoided. That he took a calculated risk in holding on to his gubernatorial seat of power despite an unfavorable opinion against his action by the same court on an earlier occasion, will all come as a bigger embarrassment for the UPA Government including the Prime Minister himself. Nevertheless, the precedent of the land mark ruling will now hopefully be adhered to in future by the ruling dispensation both at the Centre and the State who more often than not, by their political machinations, always have an ingenuity of proving a wrong as right. 

The UPA government should now set the record straight by appointing a new Governor in a proper manner as laid out in the Sarkaria Commission report on Centre-State relations. For this, the Prime Minister must consult the State Chief Minister Nitish Kumar before appointing any person. It also goes without saying that only a non-political person should be considered for the Patna assignment otherwise, the controversy enmeshing this dignified office will continue. The Congress party must display a sense of political maturity and fairness to prevent the politicisation of this post. A Governor should be an asset, not a liability. The party will no doubt be put to the litmus test on this. 

In the aftermath of the court decision, there is bound to be some finger pointing of who the real culprit ought to be. In this case though, it has to be ascertained on whether the former Congressman, Governor Buta Singh had misled the Centre (read as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh) that the worst type of horse-trading was taking place and thereby prompting the Union cabinet to recommend the House dissolution. In this case though, both Singh & Singh have been proved wrong by the highest court of the land.

One important issue that must be addressed herewith is the validity of the decision arrived at, first by the Governor and subsequently by the Prime Minister and whether it was based of any relevant material or was it a simple case of mala fide exercise of power? Buta Singh as the Governor could have acted more judiciously. Both groups should have been given the opportunity at government formation. Further, the Sarakaria Commission, the Supreme Court in the Bommai case made the point that the question of support had to be decided only on the floor of the House and certainly not by sitting in judgment which has now proved to have been ill-conceived. The act of Buta Singh was therefore blatantly undemocratic, unconstitutional and partisan.