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Maharashtra Political Crisis: The Matter to be Placed Before the Constitutional Bench

The Supreme Court stays the matter of disqualification of MLAs

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Raju Vernekar
Raju Vernekar
Raju Vermekar is a senior Mumbai-based journalist who have worked with many daily newspapers. Raju contributes on versatile topics.

INDIA. MUMBAI: The Maharashtra political crisis continued to be in limbo, with Supreme Court directing the newly elected Maharashtra Assembly speaker not to decide on the disqualification notices issued to Shiv Sena MLAs till the court rules on them.

After the matter was mentioned before Chief Justice of India (CJI) NV Ramana by Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal on behalf of Uddhav Thackeray camp’s Chief whip Sunil Prabhu, on Monday, the CJI asked the new speaker of the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly, Rahul Narwekar keep in abeyance the disqualification proceedings initiated against the members of Shiv Sena.

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Supreme Court asked the Solicitor General Tushar Mehta (appearing for the Maharashtra Governor) to inform Maharashtra Assembly Speaker not to take any decision unless the court decides the plea. “This matter will require the Constitution of the bench and will take some time to be listed. Not tomorrow. But inform the speaker what we said,” the CJI added.

In a war of notices, the Shinde camp leader Bharat Ghogavale has sought disqualification of Shiv Sena MLAs, except the MLA Aditya Thackeray, who defied his whip for the floor test of the new government on Monday (July 04). 

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A total of 40 Shiv Sena MLAs voted in favour of the resolution (One legislator joined the rebel camp that day). Fifteen voted against it. In a petition to Speaker Rahul Narvekar, Gogavale sought disciplinary action, including disqualification, against the 14 MLAs who did not vote in favour of the motion. As against this, Prabhu filed a petition saying that Shiv Sena MLAs who did not vote against the resolution should be disqualified. He named 39 of them.

State Legislature Principal Secretary Rajendra Bhagwat on Sunday issued notices to 53 MLAs under the disqualification rule on defection and directed them to reply within seven days.

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Pending petitions filed by the Thackeray camp and rebel Shinde faction include WP (C) No. 468 of 2022, WP (C) No. 469 of 2022, WP(C) No. 470 of 2022 (petitioner), and WP (C) No. 479 of 2022.

The first two writ petitions have been filed by the Shinde camp challenging the disqualification proceedings initiated by the former Deputy Speaker Narhari Zirwal of the Maharashtra Assembly against them based on disqualification petitions filed by Sunil Prabhu.

The third written petition filed by Prabhu has challenged the Governor of Maharashtra’s illegal summoning of the Assembly to conduct a floor test. The fourth is a petition filed by Prabhu that challenges the unlawful order of Speaker Rahul Narvekar to remove Ajay Choudhari and Sunil Prabhu, respectively, from the posts of leader and Chief Whip of the Shivsena Legislature Party.

After the Thackeray faction appointed MLA Ajay Chowdhary as the new leader of the Shiv Sena Legislature Party (SLP), he initially served notices to 16 MLAs of the Shinde camp asking them to attend a meeting of SLP organized in Mumbai within 24 hours. Zirwal then served disqualification notices to the Shinde camp MLAs asking them to respond within 48 hours.

The rebel MLAs then approached the top court against the disqualification notices. The SC on June 27 granted interim relief to them by extending the time to file a response to the disqualification notice sent by the Deputy Speaker till July 12.

Subsequently, the Court on June 29 gave the go-ahead to a floor test called for by Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari. The Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government, led by Uddhav Thackeray, fell as a result, and a new government led by Eknath Shinde was sworn in on June 30. Following that, the Assembly elected a new speaker, who issued disqualification notices to 53 of the 55 Shiv Sena MLAs.

A war of petitions/Notices 

June 20: Eknath Shinde rebels along with 34 Sena MLAs. He is removed from the SLP post and replaced by Ajay Choudhari by chief Uddhav Thackeray. 

June 21: Former Deputy Speaker Narhari Zirwal recognizes the appointment of Choudhari as Leader of the SLP.

June 22: Shiv Sena Chief whip Sunil Prabhu issues a notice asking Shinde camp MLAs to reach Mumbai within 24 hours to attend a meeting of the SLP. Shinde responds, stating that Prabhu did not have the authority to call an SLP meeting. 

June 25: Shinde and 15 rebels receive disqualification notices under Rule 6 of Maharashtra Legislative Assembly (Disqualification on Ground of Defection) Rules, 1986 (“Disqualification Rules”) read with the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution from the Deputy Speaker. The notice seeks replies by 5:30 pm on June 27. 

June 26: The Shinde camp challenges the notice in two different writ petitions before the SC– challenging their disqualification and the appointment of Choudhari as the SLP leader. 

June 27: The SC orders ask the Shinde faction to respond to the disqualification notices by July 11. The Thackeray faction advised approaching the apex court if any attempt to conduct a floor test to change the status of the Assembly was made before that date.

June 27: The SC issues notice to the Deputy Speaker seeking his reply on the plea filed by the Shinde camp. 

June 29: The Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government is toppled after Thackeray steps down as chief minister, ahead of a floor test. The next day, Shinde is sworn in as the CM (June 30).

July 01: The MVA alliance has petitioned the Supreme Court to suspend 16 rebel MLAs until the deputy speaker rules on the disqualification issue. Sunil Prabhu wants to suspend newly appointed Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and 15 rebel MLAs until a final decision on their disqualification is made. The petition also requests that they be barred from “entering the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly or participating in any proceeding related to the House until the final adjudication of the disqualification proceedings against them.”

July 04: A petition by the Shiv Sena objecting to recognition granted by Speaker Rahul Narvekar to the whip Bharat Ghogawale appointed by the Shinde camp. Senior Advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi mentioned the matter before a bench of Justices Indira Banerjee and JK Maheswari, arguing that the speaker has no jurisdiction to recognize Shinde’s whip nominee as Thackeray is still the head of the official Shiv Sena party.

July 08: A petition by Thackeray challenging Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari’s decision to invite Shinde to form the government on June 30. It argues that the new coalition of the 39 rebel Shiv Sena MLAs is ex-facie unconstitutional since the rebel MLAs have not merged with the BJP, and thus are liable to be disqualified under the Tenth Schedule. The petition also raises questions about the validity of the Assembly proceedings conducted on July 03 (election of BJP MLA Rahul Narvekar as the new speaker) and July 04 (the floor test in which rebel Sena MLAs-BJP coalition proved its majority). The Thackeray camp argues that the floor test was illegal since 16 rebel MLAs who voted were facing disqualification.

Deputy Speaker Speaks

In the meanwhile, former Deputy Speaker Narhari Zirwal, in his reply to the SC on Sunday, stated that the 48-hour window given to Shinde camp MLAs to respond to the disqualification notices sent to them was sufficient and cannot be said to be unreasonable. If the rebel MLAs could move the SC in 24 hours, they could have replied to the disqualification notices within 48 hours.

Zirwal responded to a plea by the Shinde group challenging the appointment of Ajay Choudhari as SLP leader and the disqualification notices issued to 16 rebel MLAs.

 Zirwal also stated that the judgement in Nabam Rebia and Bamang Felix vs Deputy Speaker Arunachal Pradesh Legislative Assembly would not apply to him since there was no valid notice of removal issued during an assembly session. Besides, the notice of no-confidence motion against him was not sent by any MLA but was sent by a lawyer and was, therefore, not a valid notice under Article 179(c) of the Constitution.

In light of these developments, whether Thackeray can still win back the government through the Supreme Court proceedings is to be seen. However, the hearings should be held without a break.

Also Read: 2023 ELECTION: 24 Political Thugs Arrested as IGP Establishes Electoral Offense Desk


  • Raju Vernekar

    Raju Vermekar is a senior Mumbai-based journalist who have worked with many daily newspapers. Raju contributes on versatile topics.

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