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Bihar House dissolution issue for Statute Bench

Legal Correspondent

Broad agreement among counsel on need for interpretation

NEW DELHI: A five-judge Constitution Bench will hear on September 6 petitions questioning the dissolution of the Bihar Assembly on May 23.

A three-judge Bench comprising the Chief Justice R.C. Lahoti, Justice C.K. Thakker and Justice P.K. Balasubramanyan decided to refer the matter to a Constitution Bench following a broad agreement among counsel for the petitioners, Attorney General Milon K. Banerjee and the Election Commission that the matter needed interpretation by a larger Bench.

Mr. Banerjee said it could be even referred to an 11-judge Constitution Bench instead of a five-judge Bench. The Bench said this would depend on the "forceful arguments" on his part to persuade the Bench to refer the matter to such a larger Bench. The petitioners, Purnima Yadav, an independent MLA in the dissolved Assembly and advocate Viplav Sharma had filed petitions challenging the decision to dissolve the Assembly and sought an interim direction to restrain the EC from notifying the dates of election.

While fixing the hearing tentatively for September 6, the Bench said if for some reason the main petition could not be heard, then the interim applications seeking stay of the election notification would be taken up for hearing. In response to the court notice, the Centre filed an affidavit contending that the advice tendered by the Council of Ministers to the President could not be gone into by the court.

Referring to the petitioners' contention that the President signed the proclamation hurriedly from Moscow, the Centre said: "The court is not to inquire — it is not concerned with — whether any advice was tendered by any Minister or Council of Ministers to the President, and if so, what was that advice. That is a matter between the President and his Council of Ministers."

Seeking dismissal of the petitions, the Centre asserted that there was adequate material for the dissolution of the House. Considering the fact that the political process was unable to foster a principled initiative and that the people's mandate must be once again sought, the Governor rightly concluded that the Assembly ought to be dissolved so that political parties could seek a fresh mandate from the people.

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