Arunachal crisis: SC talks tough, asks Centre to give list of seized documents to ex-CM Nabam Tuki and others

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Monday asked the Centre to provide the list of documents seized from offices of deposed Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Nabam Tuki and his cabinet colleagues after imposition of President’s Rule in the state, as the Attorney General said most papers, running into lakhs of pages, may be “irrelevant and unrelated”.

“You (Centre) can’t say that the documents seized by you are not related to them (Tuki and his cabinet minister). You give the full list of whatever have been seized and let them decide as to what they want and what they do not want. “The question of choice will emerge only after you give the whole list,” a five-judge constitution bench headed by Justice J S Khehar said.

Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, representing the Centre, referred to a fresh interim plea of Arunachal Pradesh government saying it would be difficult to give all documents to the petitioners (Tuki and other Congress leaders) in pursuance of the court order as there are thousands of files, having lakhs of pages and, moreover, most of them may be irrelevant and unrelated to this case. “You have to give the whole list. This is the partial list. Let them choose from the list of documents, possibly having nexus with the case or possibly not having nexus with the case. You cannot say right now. You have to give the entire list,” the bench said.
The bench, also comprising Justices Dipak Misra, M B Lokur, P C Ghosh and N V Ramana, said, “We are not accepting your (state’s) application as it is. You file a fresh one with the full list of the documents …”
Stressing the need for supplying the list of papers to Tuki and others, the bench also said, “Suppose somebody comes to our office and takes away all files, how do we know as to which file has importance until we see them again.” On February 1, the court had considered the contention of senior advocates F S Nariman and Kapil Sibal, appearing for Tuki and other Congress leaders, that their offices have been seized after the imposition of President’s Rule and as part of “fairness” they be given all seized private letters, files and documents to them.
The Attorney General today said that all files also include files like constables’ recruitment, liquor shop allocations and it would be difficult unless the demands are specified. Rohatgi also refuted the claims of Congress leaders including the former Chief Minister that their offices were sealed and documents seized.
“The Chief Minister’s residence is only locked and the files are still there. Their offices were never sealed on day one and even today. Let them go there and check. What all they wanted, let them tell us,” he submitted. Earlier, Rohatgi had opposed the pleas of Tuki and others on the issue saying that they never protested that they were handicapped in the absence of the copies of the letters exchanged between Governor Jyoti Prasad Rajkhowa and the then Chief Minister.
The arguments seeking copies of letters addressed between Tuki and Governor and return of files/documents, personal computers and laptops etc provided by the state to the Chief minister and ministers, were led by senior advocate Fali S Nariman who said there was a need for interim injunction to restore “status quo ante”, otherwise the entire exercise would be futile.
The senior advocate had on February 1 said “there was a need for interim interlocutory urgent order” as all political appointments stood canceled in the state and all of them (CM, ministers etc) are painted “as if they are criminals”.

The bench had rejected the Centre’s opposition in giving documents seized from former CM’s office and cabinet colleagues after imposition of President’s Rule The court had directed the Centre to make copies and return “forthwith” by Friday all seized private letters, files and documents to the former CM, Ministers and parliamentary secretaries and are in the custody of the Administrator through the Chief Secretary.