SC declines relief to Sangma-led alliance in Meghalaya

The coalition led by NCP leader P A Sangma in Meghalaya failed to get a relief in the Supreme Court which refused to interfere with Governor S S Sidhu's decision to swear in a Congress-led Government. A plea by the NCP-led Meghalaya Progressive Alliance (MPA) for advancing the floor test before 20th March for the D D Lapang government was also rejected by the apex court which said that "extreme circumstance has not arisen to pass any order at this stage". It was not impressed with the arguments of MPA's counsel, senior advocate Soli J Sorabjee, that 10 days' time given to the new government to prove its majority in the House was too long and would lead to horse trading. A Bench headed by Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan said there was no precedent on the number of days given for floor test in the Assembly and if the Governor had granted a longer time like one or two months then the court would have interefered. "Seven or ten days for floor test did not make much difference when you (MPA) have 31 members in your side," the Bench, also comprising Justices R V Raveendran and Dalveer Bhandari said. "We assume that they (MLAs) are honourable men but you are presuming that they are not by expressing apprehension that they will be bought," it observed and added that "You are solid with 31 members so why do you worry. It is clear mathematics". When Sorabjee found that the Bench was not accepting his arguments against the Governor's action, he said "Prima facie if your (Bench) conscience is not moved with the Governor's action inviting a party with lesser number, you can advance the floor test." However, the Bench was unmoved and posted the petition filed by NCP leader P A Sangma's son Conrad K Sangma to 24th March. The Bench said the first stage for the formation of a new government was over with the swearing-in of the Chief Minister and unless the Assembly was convened, it could not interfere at this stage. "The Assembly is not in session. If it would have been in session we would have been in a position to pass some order," the Bench said. "The new assembly is to be constituted and any interference now will cause a lot of inconvenience," the Bench said and even questioned Sorabjee as to who can be given the direction at this stage. "None of the respondents (the Centre and the State's Chief Secretary) have Constitutional authority to convene the Assembly," the Bench said, refusing Sorabjee's plea that a limited relief of advancing the floor test be granted. "Which respondent will we ask to convene the Assembly. We have no authority to constitute the Assembly and the Chief Secretary has no right to convene it," the Bench said. During the hearing, the Bench said there was a possibility that before the MPA met the Governor with 31 members on 10th March, the Congress as a single largest party may have stake claim to form government. "The MPA with 31 member may have met after the Congress with 25 MLAs was invited to form the government," the Bench observed after hearing Sorabjee's submission that a resolution was passed on 8th March by the MPA coalition to stake claim for government formation. The former Attorney General said "there was error on the part of Governor inviting party having no majority when the alliance with majority had met him". He said "all norms of democracy have been eroded in Meghalaya". The petition filed by Sangma's son contended that Governor's decision was "illegal and unconstitutional." He said the MPA had the support of 31 MLAs in the 60-member House but the Governor had invited the Congress, with 25 MLAs, to form the government. MPA contended that the Governor was bound to invite the post-poll alliance of NCP, BJP, UDP and KHNWM (Khun Hynniewtrep National Awakening Movement) as it has a clear majority. "The Governor cannot exercise any discretion when members constituting the majority are physically present before him. He is bound to invite the leader of such an alliance under Article 163 of the Constitution," the petition said referring to incident when Sangma paraded 30 MLAs before the Governor. UDP MLA and former chief minister E K Mawlong was absent as he was unwell. The petition said the MPA has projected UDP leader Donkupar Roy as its Chief Minister.

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