Maharashtra political crisis: SC to hear five pleas on July 20
A bench comprising Chief Justice NV Ramana and Justices Krishna Murari and Hima Kohli has now fixed as many as five petitions for hearing on Wednesday
The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear on July 20 a batch of pleas pertaining to the recent political crisis in Maharashtra that led to the fall of the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government in the state.
The turmoil began with a rebellion in the Shiv Sena following which Uddhav Thackeray resigned as chief minister on June 29. A day later, rebel Sena leader Eknath Shinde took oath as chief minister with the BJP as his partner.
A bench comprising Chief Justice N V Ramana and Justices Krishna Murari and Hima Kohli, which was urged by senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for the Uddhav Thackeray faction, that the matters required urgent listing and hearing, has now fixed as many as five petitions for hearing on Wednesday.
The CJI-led bench, on July 11, had granted an interim relief to the Uddhav Thackeray faction MLAs by asking Maharashtra Assembly Speaker Rahul Narwekar not to proceed with the plea seeking their disqualification as sought by the Shinde group on the ground of defying party whip during the trust vote and the election of the speaker.
The top court seized of five petitions as on date and the first one was filed by the Shinde faction during the summer vacation when some rebel Sena MLAs moved before it challenging the disqualification proceedings initiated by the deputy speaker.
On June 27, the vacation bench had extended the time for the rebel MLAs to file written responses to the deputy speaker's disqualification notice till July 12.
While agreeing to the submission of Sibal for an early hearing, the CJI had said that it will have to set up a bench for hearing the batch of petitions.
On July 3, Rahul Narvekar of the BJP was elected Speaker of the Maharashtra Assembly.
He had polled 164 votes and defeated Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena candidate Rajan Salvi, who got 107 votes.
A day before the floor test, Maharashtra Assembly Speaker Narvekar had recognised Gogawale as the Shiv Sena's chief whip, removing Sunil Prabhu, who belongs to the Thackeray faction.
After winning the trust vote in the state Assembly on July 4, the Shinde faction of the Shiv Sena had issued a notice to 14 legislators from the Uddhav Thackeray camp for violating a whip issued by the Sena whip and Shinde loyalist Bharat Gogawale.
Both sides have accused each other of defying the party whip during the Speaker's election and the trust vote on July 3 and 4, respectively, seeking disqualification of the legislators from both sides.
Maharashtra legislature secretary also came into the picture and issued show-cause notices to 53 of the total 55 Shiv Sena MLAs in the state, including 39 of the faction led by Shinde and 14 of the Uddhav Thackeray group.
The notices have been issued under the Members of Maharashtra Legislative Assembly (disqualification on grounds of defection) rules. In the trust vote, 164 MLAs voted for the motion of confidence, while 99 voted against it.
The Shiv Sena has 55 MLAs in the 288-member Assembly, whose current strength is 287 due to the death of a Sena legislator.
The Thackeray faction has also challenged the validity of assembly proceedings held on July 3 and July 4 in which a new speaker of the House was elected and subsequent proceedings of floor test in which the 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, Prabhu had moved the top court seeking suspension from the assembly of the chief minister and 15 rebel MLAs against whom the disqualification pleas are pending.
The vacation bench of the court 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 Sena MLAs till July 12.
On June 29, the Maharashtra governor had ordered a floor test, prompting the MVA government to rush to the top 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 beleaguered chief minister Uddhav Thackeray quit office.
After Shinde was sworn in as the chief minister on June 30, Prabhu moved to the top 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.