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SC takes exception to Maha governor’s acts during Sena crisis

The top court described the crisis “as a very sad spectacle in the democracy irrespective of the morality of Shiv Sea having joined Congress” in a post-poll alliance.

Statesman News Service | New Delhi |

The Supreme Court on Wednesday observed that the governor should not enter into the area of intra-party feud which precipitates the fall of a government and called the Maharashtra political crisis a serious issue for democracy and “a sad spectacle for democracy”.

A five-judge constitution bench of Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud, Justice M.R. Shah,  Justice Krishna Murari, Justice Hima Kohli and Justice P S Narasimha made some strong observations in the course of the  arguments advanced by the Solicitor General Tushar Mehta  appearing for the Governor.

Describing the observation critical of the actions of the then Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari as a “dialogue” between the bench and the arguing lawyer – Solicitor General Mahta in the instant case – the bench read out the letter written by MLAs loyal to the present Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and asked if Governor can take cognizance of this letter and direct the then Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray to go for trust vote.  The court said that the act of the Governor precipitated the split in the Shiv Sena and led to the fall of an elected government.

Pointing out that a batch of 90-plus MLAs belonging to the Indian National Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party was entact, the governor, acting on the letter by MLAs owing allegiance to then rebel leader Eknath Shinde, treaded upon the area coming under the Tenth Schedule of the constitution under which Speaker alone can act in his judicial capacity.

Observing that the governor must exercise such powers with the “greatest circumspection”, the Chief Justice Chandrachud said that there was no occasion for the Governor Koshyari to direct the floor test. The court noted that the monsoon session of Maharashtra assembly was round the corner.

The bench said “It as a very sad spectacle in the democracy irrespective of the morality of Shiv Sea having joined Congress” in post poll alliance

As Solicitor General Mehta said that Governor could not have allowed a political instability for a longer duration, and there was a security threat to the then rebel MLAs, and the Governor could be a  “mute spectator” to all that, the bench observed that the security threat  is a law and order issue and cannot be a ground for ordering trust vote.

CJI Chandrachud said that the leader of the opposition will always write to the Governor critical of the government.

The court remarked that one can never allow the Governor to ask for a trust vote when there is absolutely nothing to shake the majority on the floor of the house as a trust vote is not to have a new political leader and somebody else could become the head of the party. Governor has no business there till that number in the alliance is the same.

Defending the actions of the Governor being in conformity with the responsibility of his office, Solicitor General citied several top court judgments endorsing the actions of the Governor. However, the court observed that it was the other way round.

Senior advocate Kapil Sibal told the constitution bench about the double standard of Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde in claiming to be a political party before the Court, but claiming to be a faction of the Shiv Sena to recognise it as a real Shiv Sena.

Appearing for the Uddhav Thackeray group, Sibal also faulted the Governor for deciding Shinde as a faction and making a  mockery of the Tenth Schedule to bring back in the Indian politics the concept of Ayaram and Gayaram.

Sibal said the only identity of a MLA is his political party which gives him the party symbol to contest and that identity remains irrespective of whether the government is formed by the single largest party or pre-poll alliance or post-poll coalition, always recognising the political party in every scenario.

Sibal said the numbers do not count in the formation of the government that the Shinde group used to let it form the government with the governor’s support.

A five-judge Constitution bench was hearing a batch of petitions filed by rival factions Uddhav Thackeray and Chief Minister Eknath Shinde in relation to the Maharashtra political crisis.

The Supreme Court’s Constitution bench has earlier said it will decide later on referring the cases related to the Maharashtra political crisis to a larger seven-judge bench for reconsideration of a 2016 Nabam Rebia judgment on powers of Assembly Speakers to deal with disqualification pleas.