In a landmark judgment that came as a jolt to the ruling establishment, the Supreme Court on February 15, 2024, struck down the Electoral Bond (EB) scheme.
The Supreme court on Friday issued notice to Maharashtra Legislative Assembly Speaker on a plea by the Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray) party MLA Sunil Prabhu seeking direction to the Speaker Rahul Narwekar to take expeditious decision on the disqualification petitions seeking the unseating of the Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and the MLAs aligned to him who had defied the Shiv Sena party and split the legislature party.
A bench comprising Chief Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, Justice Pamidighantam Sri Narasimha and Justice Manoj Misra issued notice returnable in two weeks as bench was told by Sunil Prabhu’s advocate that the top court had in the past ruled that Speaker should decide on a petition seeking the disqualification of an errant lawmaker within three months.
A three-judge bench headed by Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman (since retired) on January 21, 2020, had ruled that Speaker must decide on a disqualification petition within three months and persons who have infracted the tenth schedule incurred such disqualification do not deserve to be MPs/MLAs even for a single day.
Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray) lawmaker in Maharashtra assembly Sunil Prabhu in his petition has said that the Speaker Rahul Naewekar in a brazen disregard to his constitutional duties as a neutral arbiter has deliberately chosen to delay the adjudications of the disqualification petitions, thereby, permitting the illegal continuance of Eknath Shinde as Chief Minister, and MLAs backing him against whom the disqualification petitions are pending for almost a year.
The petitioner Sunil Prabhu has said that the Speaker Narwekar’s inaction in holding the disqualification proceedings is an “act of grave constitutional impropriety” as his inaction is allowing MLAs ,who are liable to be disqualified, to continue in the assembly and to hold responsible positions in the government of Maharashtra including that of the Chief Minister.
Stating that the petitions seeking disqualification of delinquent MLAs are pending for over a year, the petitioner Sunil Prabhu has sought direction to the Speaker to decide them within a time-bound manner.
The petitioner Prabhu has contended that the delinquent MLAs have committed “brazenly unconstitutional acts” which per se invite disqualification under Paras 2(1)(a), 2(1)(b), and 2(2) of the Tenth Schedule.
The petition by Prabhu states “It is settled law that the Speaker while performing its functions under Para 6 of the Tenth Schedule, acts as a judicial tribunal, and is required to act in a fair and unbiased manner. The constitutional requirement of fairness enjoins upon the Speaker the obligation to decide the question of disqualification in an expeditious manner. Any unreasonable delay on the part of the Speaker in deciding the petitions for disqualification contributes to and perpetuates the constitutional sin of defection committed by the delinquent members.”
Referring to May 11, 2023, constitution bench judgment relating to Shiv Sena centric Maharashtra political crisis which had asked the Speaker to decide disqualification petitions in a reasonable period, Sunil Prabhu has said that the Speaker has taken no steps in that regard.
He said that he has already submitted three representations on this score to the Speaker, but to no avail.
The disqualification petitions against the Chief Minister Shinde aligned MLAs were filed by Sunil Prabhu, the Shiv Sena party Whip, on June 23, 2022, after MLAs rebelled against Uddhav Thackeray. The notices of disqualification were issued by Deputy Speaker Narhari Zirwal in the absence of the Speaker.
On May 11, a five-judge constitution bench had said that it cannot ordinarily decide on disqualification petitions and had directed that the “Speaker must decide disqualification petitions within a reasonable period.”