Bihar crisis: Legally speaking and the Bommai verdict

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New Delhi, Feb 12: Nitish Kumar may have expected a smooth transfer in Bihar, but that was not to be. Jitan Ram Manjhi the man Nitish Kumar appointed as the Chief Minister decided to give him a tough fight.

For the JD(U), which has been doing everything to ensure that Nitish Kumar takes over as the CM, the decision by Manjhi to put up a fight may have been morally wrong.

JItan Ram Manjhi-Nitish Kumar

However, speaking legally, Manjhi has every right to fight back and backing him is the landmark verdict of the Supreme Court in the S R Bommai case.

Oneindia speaks to several legal experts about the Bihar issue and also explains in detail the S R Bommai verdict which went on to ensure that governments cannot just be thrown out by a governor due to the whims and fancies of politicians.

Governor cannot act in haste:

In the Bihar case, the governor has acted in the right direction by giving Manjhi a chance to prove his majority. Everything shall be decided on the floor of the house and not in the high command office of the party or at the Raj Bhavan, legal experts say.

While the governor has the right to delay any decision regarding a floor test, he, however, cannot wait indefinitely. The governor of Bihar was also right when he did not recommend dissolution of a house with elected representatives.

The law clearly states that he will have to give the parties a chance before he recommends dissolution of the house. However, it is at the discretion of the governor as to how many chances he would like to give. It is only when all options are run out will the governor recommend dissolution of the house paving the way for fresh elections.

What is Manjhi cannot prove majority:

If Manjhi fails to pass the floor test, then the governor will have to invite the party with the largest number of MLAs to form the government.
If Manjhi does not prove his majority on the floor of the house, then the governor can either recommend dissolution of the house or give a chance the largest party. In such cases, the governor normally gives a chance instead of taking a decision to dissolve the house.

The term of the government would also matter in such cases. If the term is for a longer period then the governor would make every attempt to ensure that there is a government in place until the next date of elections.

The Bihar scenario is a good case for the governor to consider having a government in place since there is almost a year remaining for the term to complete.

The S R Bommai case:

The S R Bommai case ensured that sanity returned to politics. Normally governor appointed by the centre acted at the whims and fancies of their masters and dismissed governments at will.

The judgment, delivered by the Supreme Court on May 11, 1994, defined the use of Article 356 and imposition of President's rule.
When the then Congress government at the Centre dismissed the S R Bommai government in Karnataka in 1989, Bommai challenged the dismissal.

The Supreme Court held that a state government could be dismissed only under extenuating circumstances, and laid down guidelines for such a dismissal.

The Bench of the Supreme Court observed, " the Governor should have found out whether there was any possibility of a formation of a government before taking such a hasty decision. He should have waited at least two more months before making such a drastic recommendation. "

"Let us not forget that this is a democracy and such decisions of importance should be made only when there is a breakdown of the state's machinery."

OneIndia News

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