November 23, 2018 @ 11:45 am

23 NOVEMBER 2018

Unlawful dissolution

The J&K Governor’s action controverts what has been laid down by the Supreme Court

In dissolving the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly without giving any claimant an opportunity to form the government, Governor Satya Pal Malik has violated constitutional law and convention. Mr. Malik’s stated reasons for his action — “extensive horse trading” and the possibility that a government formed by parties with “opposing political ideologies” would not be stable — are extraneous. The Governor ought to have known that the Supreme Court has deprecated such a line of reasoning. In Rameshwar Prasad (2006), the then Bihar Governor Buta Singh’s recommendation for dissolving the Assembly the previous year was held to be illegal and mala fide. In both instances, the dissolution came just as parties opposed to the ruling dispensation at the Centre were close to staking a claim to form the government. In Bihar, the Assembly was then in suspended animation as no party or combination had the requisite majority; in J&K, the State has been under Governor’s rule since June, when the BJP withdrew from the coalition and Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, of the Peoples Democratic Party, resigned. It is true that the PDP and the National Conference had not initiated any move to form a popular government for months and favoured fresh elections. But that cannot be the reason for the Governor to dissolve the 87-member House just when they were about to come together to form a likely 56-member bloc with the help of the Congress.

With the BJP backing Peoples Conference leader Sajjad Lone, the PDP may have sensed a danger to the unity of its 29-member legislature party and agreed to an unusual alliance with its political adversaries. Describing such an alliance as opportunistic is fine as far as it is political opinion; however, it cannot be the basis for constitutional action. As indicated in Rameshwar Prasad, a Governor cannot shut out post-poll alliances altogether as one of the ways in which a popular government may be formed. The court had also said unsubstantiated claims of horse-trading or corruption in efforts at government formation cannot be cited as reasons to dissolve the Assembly. Further, it said it was the Governor’s duty to explore the possibility of forming a popular government, and that he could not dissolve the House solely to prevent a combination from staking its claim. Mr. Malik’s remarks that the PDP and the NC did not show proof of majority or parade MLAs show shocking disregard for the primacy accorded to a floor test. J&K’s relationship with the Centre is rooted in constitutional safeguards as well as in the participation of its major parties in electoral politics and parliamentary democracy. Anyone interested in political stability in the sensitive State should ensure that democratic processes are strengthened. The potential for political instability in the future should not be cited as a reason to scuttle emerging alliances.

Cricket’s final frontier

It is India’s best chance to win a Test series in Australia. But can it?

Cricketing reputations are sometimes made or shattered based on how a player performs against Australia. That’s been something of a trend ever since the West Indies began its free fall after losing to Australia in the mid-1990s. And Australia, in its own backyard, is considered the ultimate opposition. Sachin Tendulkar has scored 100 international centuries, but even today his splendid 114 at Perth during the 1992 tour of Australia is regarded as one of his finest. For Virat Kohli’s men, who have just set foot in Australia and narrowly lost their first Twenty20 encounter, the long tour presents an opportunity for India to reiterate its credentials. The International Cricket Council has ranked India as number one in Tests and placed it at the second spot in both ODIs and Twenty20 Internationals. Incidentally, in all three lists, Kohli’s men are ranked above Australia. The hosts remain a powerful force at home, but having been weakened by the ban-induced absence of Steve Smith and David Warner following the ball-tampering incident earlier this year in South Africa, they are shorn of their usual domineering aura. Australia is placed fifth, sixth and fourth in Tests, ODIs and Twenty20s, respectively. The dip in performance has been matched by intense self-analysis about the manner in which Australia plays its sport. The ‘result-justifies-the-unsavoury-methods’ philosophy has been put through a wringer ever since Cameron Bancroft was caught rubbing a sandpaper on the ball.

It is in this theatre of tumult that the Indian team has landed. But the sobering truth is that Kohli’s men, like many of their predecessors, have been poor travellers beyond the subcontinent. There has been the odd upset but largely it has been a tale of debilitating defeats. In the previous tour of England, India lost the Tests 1-4 while honours were shared between the ODIs and Twenty20s. Cut to the present, the three Twenty20s are a prelude to four Tests and three ODIs. Batsman Kohli reigns supreme but his captaincy has come under scrutiny. The constant shuffling of the playing XI has triggered churn and the Indian skipper has to work on getting his nucleus right. There are some fine batsmen, a bunch of incisive fast bowlers and spinners with guile. The ingredients are there and there is some confidence in dealing with what may be viewed as a somewhat enfeebled Australia. But a potent pace attack led by Mitchell Starc offers a clear and present danger, especially in Tests. India has to exorcise the ghosts of the past, having never won a Test series in Australia. The circumstances are promising for it to correct that record.                               

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