The Supreme Court on Wednesday posted for hearing on August 1 the petitions filed by both factions of the Shiv Sena relating to the control of the Shiv Sena party and the recent political crisis in Maharashtra, which brought down the Maha Vikas Aghadi (Congress-Shiv Sena-NCP) government in the state.
A bench led by Chief Justice of India NV Ramana, Justices Krishna Murari and Hima Kohli granted time to Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde-led camp to file an affidavit on the pleas filed by Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray-led faction.
Senior advocate Harish Salve for the Shinde camp sought time to file a reply on pleas filed by the Thackeray camp and asked the court to post the hearing next week.
Hinting at the formation of a larger bench in the future, CJI Ramana said, “Some of the issues, I strongly feel, may require a larger bench. A larger bench can hear the case.”
Supreme Court said that the issues in petitions may require reference to a five-judge bench.
The bench further said that the Speaker will maintain the status quo and not decide on any disqualification applications.
The Apex Court also tells the Legislative Assembly secretary to keep all records in safe custody.
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal representing Uddhav Thackeray’s camp told the apex court that every elected government in this country can be toppled if this case can be accepted.
“Democracy is in danger if state governments can be toppled despite the bar under the 10th schedule,” Sibal said.
Meanwhile, senior advocate Harish Salve for the Eknath Shinde camp said that inner party democracy has been throttled by disqualification proceedings. He has sought time to file a reply on the petitions filed by the Thackeray camp and asks to post the hearing next week.
In his arguments, Sibal said: “Forty members of Shiv Sena by their conduct are deemed to have incurred disqualification by giving up party membership. By voting for a candidate put up by the BJP as Speaker in violation of the official whip, they have attracted disqualification. By voting in the vote of confidence violating official whip, they have incurred disqualification,” said Sibal.
He further said that the Governor should not have sworn-in to the new government when the Supreme Court was hearing the matters.
“Speaker recognizing a whip other than the official whip nominated by the party is mala fide,” he said.
Sibal said that the issue of the political party is itself in question. When disqualified members elect a person and they stand disqualified, then the election itself is bad.
“What happens to the verdict of the people who elected the government,” Sibal asks.
He said that the Schedule that has been used to prevent defection has been used to instigate defection. The tenth schedule has been turned topsy-turvy. Every day’s delay will play havoc with democratic decisions. An illegitimate government should stay for a single day, he added.
Senior advocate Singhvi appearing for the Uddhav Thackeray-led camp also told the Supreme Court that the so-called departing faction sent a letter to the then Deputy Speaker seeking his removal and they sent it from an unauthorized email followed by a letter by an advocate. Deputy Speaker didn’t take it on record saying no MLAs came before him.
Singvhi said the condition in the 10th Schedule is that not only you should have two-thirds going but also the 2/3rd should merge with another party. They have not merged with another party and they are not calling themselves BJP either. It is common ground that they have not merged. Yet they are not disqualified.
They can vote in a floor test and form a contrived majority. We are beseeching the court to uphold a very important moral, ethical, legal and constitutional aspect, he added.
Meanwhile, senior advocate Harish Salve for the Eknath Shinde camp said that inner party democracy has been throttled by disqualification proceedings.
“If a large number of people in a party feels that another man should lead, what is wrong with that. The moment someone gathers enough strength within the party and stays within the party to question the leader without leaving the party and says we will defeat you in the house, that is not defection. Defection is only when they leave the party and join hands with one another, not when they stay in the party,” he said.
Salve further said that the inner party matter and the court has never interfered in the workings of a political party.
The Supreme Court was hearing the pleas one by the Shinde camp and five by the Thackeray camp pertain to the disqualification proceedings, the election of Speaker, recognition of whip, floor test and others.
Uddhav Thackeray-led faction had approached the top court challenging the Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshiyari’s decision to invite Eknath Shinde to form the government and also the Speaker’s election and floor test.
They had also challenged the newly appointed Maharashtra Assembly Speaker’s action recognising the whip of Chief Minister Eknath Shinde group as the whip of Shiv Sena. The plea said the newly appointed Speaker has no jurisdiction to recognise whips nominated by Shinde as Uddhav Thackeray is still the head of the Shiv Sena official party.
However, the Shinde group challenged the disqualification notices issued by the Deputy Speaker to 16 rebel MLAs as well as the appointment of Ajay Choudhary as Shiv Sena Legislature Party leader, which is also pending before the apex court.