Breach of oath of office of a Minister is out of judicial review of High Court and within the discretionary power of Chief Minister or Governor

Kerala High Court: A Division Bench comprising of Antony Dominic, Ag. C.J. and A. Muhamed Mustaque, J. heard a petition, wherein the petitioner requested the Court to issue writs of mandamus and quo warranto against the Chief Minister and against four cabinet ministers, respectively. The issue was that the cabinet ministers had breached their oaths to office by abstaining or boycotting a cabinet meeting due to political reasons. Therefore, the questions before the Court were that whether a prayer for a writ of quo warranto be entertained at all and whether breach of oath by a Minister is “a constitutional impediment for his continuance in office.”

Relying on a Full Bench decision of the Supreme Court in  K.C. Chandy v. R. Balakrishnan Pillai, the Court reiterated that “if no oath is taken before assumption of office as enjoined by the Constitution, there is no legal title to hold that office and a writ of quo warranto will naturally go from this Court,” and since breach of an oath should require termination of the tenure of office, that termination is not the Court’s duty and jurisdiction under Article 226 cannot be exercised. The question of breach of an oath of office by a Cabinet Minister was held to be out of judicial review and falls within the discretionary domain of the Chief Minister or Governor as per the doctrine of pleasure. As a result, the petition was dismissed. [Alappey Asharaf v. Chief Minister,  2017 SCC OnLine Ker 20900, dated 24-11-2017]

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