When a dozen petitions were filed end-February/early-March this year contesting the very constitutionality of the Andhra Pradesh Reorganization Bill, pushed through at a break-neck speed by the UPA-II government, the Supreme Court admitted all of them, but refused to pass any interim order! And gave no explanation whatsoever for leaving such legal vacuum even though in the very act of admittance of petitions the venerable court signaled possible existence of a prima facie case!
The first hearing of the case was on the 5th of May, two days before the Seemandhra went to polls. Between March and May, the number of petitions grew to 24. The Supreme Court admitted all of them, but still there were no interim orders. The concerned judge seems to have remarked that– going by media reports – passing interim orders would almost amount to passing final orders and hence, the honorable court allowed the status quo to remain, leaving unsaid that the said status quo is a dynamic one! Asking the Union Government to file a reply within 6 weeks, the court fixed the next hearing on the 20th of August this year.
A Dynamic Stats Quo
The status quo consists of allowing the Union and state governments to take all steps in view of the state’s bifurcation and allowing even that the new states be formed, as intended by the Union Government on the 2nd of June. And lo! Even the elections – the Assembly elections – that were held simultaneously with the Parliamentary elections, for the legislature of the united state, were fought on this premise. Manifestos were different, some of the players were different and different parties were elected in one or the other regions and the majority parties were waiting for the President’s rule to be lifted so that they can take oath as ruling parties of the respective regions: Telangana and the residual Andhra Pradesh.
At the Center, a new BJP/NDA government is to take over. Though the new government has a majority of its own in Lok Sabha, it is woefully short of members in the Rajya Sabha. As a party to the passage of A.P Reorganization Bill in the Parliament, and as a votary of small states, the BJP may well be tempted to allow formation of the new states as per the policy laid down by the previous UPA government. And the media, the administration, the political parties, people all have either taken it for granted or reconciled to the birth of two new states out of the United Andhra Pradesh.
And now what if two new governments, one each for the two regions are formed and come August 20, the Constitutional Bench of Supreme Court strikes down the Bill? After all, many legal luminaries felt that the Bill is defective in that there are some constitutional amendments that need to be carried out before proceeding to tabling of the bill in Parliament. Even, BJP’s own L. K. Advani and Arun Jaitley seemed to have expressed reservations about the Bill. What if the Constitutional Bench felt that without a constitutional amendment the idea of Hyderabad as joint capital is inadmissible? What if the bench asks for separate re-enactment of 371D amendments to the Constitution so that it can be properly applied to both the new states? More fundamentally, what if the Constitutional Bench asks why is it impossible to redress Telangana’s problems without the state’s bifurcation? And whether it is the policy of the government to divide states wherever there is a demand raised by a section of people? And whether it is not the constitutional responsibility of the Central Government to protect Indian sub-cultures or sub-races by creating conditions for homogenizing that rectify or absorb deviations due to the quirk of destiny/history (Colonization, Muslim rule…) instead of perpetuating the historic injustice meted out to these sub-cultures?
The political point is, can the Modi-government take it for granted the passage of the constitutional amendments on its strength in the Lok Sabha alone? What if the Congress and UPA decide to pull the rug from under his feet in the Rajya Sabha? After all, political opponents do not remain trustworthy forever. And then turn an embroiled APnto a catapult to launch an attack on him? Can Modi ensure, for those constitutional amendments, consent of 50% of the states? What if the court asks him to take a fresh opinion from the erstwhile Andhra Pradesh assembly? Will he be able to reconstitute such an assembly?
Modi’s Big Decision
And it is also not a healthy practice to constrain the process of justice by confronting it with a fait accompli. If the court begins to feel that reversing the process is an uphill task, it may well give a short shrift to justice and its judgment may just endorse the actual state of affairs which is nothing but subverting justice through a sort of psychological manipulation. It is therefore necessary that Modi shows both statesmanship and a concern for constitutional and judicial propriety while saving himself from a possible embarrassment in the upper house. The best way for doing it is by staying formation of new states till a comprehensive verdict from the Supreme Court emerges. The government-formation in the united AP can be entrusted in the meanwhile to any coalition that is willing to shoulder that responsibility. The mere fact that the Supreme Court did not pass any interim directions should not come in the way of a holistic respect for Justice, Constitutionality and upholding the integrity of India’s sub-cultures and sub-races.
By Dr. C Pratap
Video Source:TV9 Telugu@YouTube