Supreme Court Asks Maharashtra Speaker Not To Proceed With Disqualification Of Shiv Sena MLAs Of Uddhav Thackeray Faction

The Uddhav Thackeray faction of Shiv Sena has challenged the validity of Maharashtra assembly proceedings on July 3-4 comprising of new assembly speaker's election and Eknath Shinde's floor test. Uddhav's faction also initiated disqualification proceedings against Eknath Shinde and 15 rebel MLAs.

Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray

The Supreme Court on Monday asked the newly-elected Maharashtra Assembly Speaker Rahul Narwekar to not proceed with the petition seeking disqualification of MLAs of Shiv Sena faction led by former Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray.

The apex court said the matter be listed after Tuesday after setting up of the bench.

A bench comprising Chief Justice NV Ramana and Justices Krishna Murari and Hima Kohli took note of the submissions of senior advocates led by Kapil Sibal that several petitions of the Uddhav faction, which were to be listed on Monday, have not been listed for hearing.    

"The court had said that the petitions would be listed on July 11. I urge that there should be no disqualification till the matter is decided here," Sibal said, adding that earlier the top court had protected the rebel MLAs when they had approached it.

"Mr (Tushar) Mehta (Solicitor General who was appearing for the Governor), you please inform the assembly speaker not to take any hearing. Let us see, we will hear the matter," the bench said. 

The Shiv Sena welcomed the order. Talking to reporters in Delhi, Shiv Sena MLC and former Maharashtra minister Anil Parab said the state legislature had filed an affidavit in the SC which stated that a new Speaker has been elected and he has the right to hear the plea of disqualification of MLAs. 

He said, "The new Speaker is from the BJP, so we thought we had a little chance to get justice. We said [in the Supreme Court] that till the time our three petitions are heard, there should be no decision on this [the disqualification of MLAs of the Uddhav Thackeray faction].

Parab said the Uddhav faction believes that 39 MLAs of the group led by Shinde violated the whip during the trust vote of the Shinde government and election of Speaker Narvekar. So, the Speaker's election in itself is wrong, he claimed. 

He added, "If the court decides in our favour, then the floor test will be deemed null and void."

The Uddhav faction has been filing several pleas in the top court after the rebel Sena MLAs led by Eknath Shinde formed a coalition with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to form the government in the state.

The Uddhav faction of Shiv Sena has also challenged the validity of assembly proceedings held on July 3-4 in which a new speaker of the House was elected and subsequent proceedings of floor test in which the Eknath Shinde-led coalition had proved its majority. 

It has also filed a plea challenging the decision of the newly-elected Speaker to recognise the new party whip of Shiv Sena rebels led by Shinde.

Prior to this, chief whip Sunil Prabhu of the Uddhav faction had moved the apex court seeking suspension from assembly of Shinde and 15 rebel MLAs against whom the disqualification pleas are pending. The Supreme Court vacation bench had on June 27 granted interim relief to the Shinde faction by extending the time for replying to the disqualification notices sent to 16 rebel MLAs till July 12.

On June 29, Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari ordered a floor test leading the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government to rush to the Supreme Court seeking its deferment.

The bench refused to stay the direction of the Governor to the 31-month-old MVA government to take a floor test in the Assembly to prove its majority after which the then Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray resigned.

After Shinde was sworn in as the chief minister on June 30, Prabhu moved to the apex court seeking his suspension and of 15 rebels on various grounds, alleging that they are "acting as pawns of the BJP, thereby committing the constitutional sin of defection". 

Earlier, Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut on Monday said his party has faith in the Supreme Court, which is hearing pleas challenging the disqualification notice issued to Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and other party MLAs, and that it is not a question about the survival of the Shinde government, but about the survival of democracy.

He said it is also a test for the "free and fair" judiciary."The question is not  about the survival of Shinde govt...the larger question is about the survival of Democracy...It's also a big test for the 'free and fair' Judiciary!" Raut tweeted. 

Talking to reporters, Raut alleged there was an attempt to foist and establish an "illegal" government in Maharashtra and the Raj Bhawan and state legislature were misused for it.

"We have faith in the Supreme Court," the Shiv Sena's chief spokesperson said.

(With PTI inputs)