In India, it rarely happens that the government or any court—especially the high courts or the Supreme Court—ever admits a mistake. On Monday, in the rarest of rare instances, a five-judge Constitution bench of the Supreme Court recalled its recent notice to Aruchal Pradesh Governor J. P. Rajkhowa, saying that it was a “mistake,” since governors and the President of India enjoy certain constitutiol immunity. The court also directed the Centre to furnish by Friday certain crucial documents seized from the offices of Aruchal Pradesh Chief Minister bam Tuki, his Cabinet colleagues and the Parliamentary Secretary. The apex court acknowledged and agreed with the submission of Attorney-General Mukul Rohatgi that no notice can be issued either to a Governor or the President under Article 361 of the Constitution which states that the President or the Governor of a State “shall not be answerable to any court for the exercise and performance of the powers and duties of his office or for any act done or purporting to be done by him in the exercise and performance of those powers and duties.” Perhaps for the first time ever, the five-judge bench of the Supreme Court said, “It is our mistake... If we make a mistake we can correct it. We have issued a notice. We will recall it,” while recalling the earlier order issued to the Governor. The implication of the Supreme Court’s directive of Monday is that the report in which the Governor of Aruchal Pradesh recommended President’s rule in the State does not have to be shared by him with the Supreme Court. This is a clear indication of the apex court having accepted the Centre’s submission that Governor Rajkhowa enjoys certain constitutiol immunity and should be covered under this category. What is perhaps far more significant is that Monday’s directive of the Supreme Court sets two precedents. One of them reflects the kind of humility that is unprecedented either in respect of the Supreme Court or in the echelons of power in our polity. In India, the Union government, the High Courts and the Supreme Court have maged to project the impression of their infallibility on the tion. By never having admitted that they too are capable of mistakes, they convey the impression that they can do no wrong. And yet, since all these wings of the government are manned by human beings, it is inconceivable that they should project any impression of infallibility. As such, Monday’s precedent could well usher in a welcome change in attitudes in the highest rungs of the judiciary and among our political executives and senior bureaucrats always unwilling to admit mistakes. The other precedent does not strike us as being a happy one. The apex court has demonstrated to the tion that even Supreme Court judges can make careless mistakes that they should assiduously try to avoid at all times. It is too much to expect that the Supreme Court was uware of the provisions of Article 361 of the Constitution to have demanded of the Governor of Aruchal Pradesh that he should share his report to the President of India (recommending President’s rule in Aruchal Pradesh) with the Supreme Court. It is not as though this is the first time President’s rule has been imposed on any State. President’s rule has been imposed on different States of India many times. As such, the entire procedure for it should be familiar to the higher judiciary as well as to the Centre and the President’s secretariat. So the Supreme Court should not have had to admit having committed such a mistake. This is one action that the apex court would do well never to repeat.
The SC Admits a Mistake