In a major reprieve for Uddhav Thackeray, the Supreme Court on Thursday directed the Election Commission of India not to decide on a plea by the rival Eknath Shinde camp staking claiming to be the real Shiv Sena for now. The Shinde faction had moved the Election Commission asking that it be considered the real Shiv Sena and granted the party poll symbol of ‘bow and arrow’.
Hearing the plea, a three-judge bench led by Chief Justice of India NV Ramana said the court will decide by Monday whether the issue pertaining to the Maharashtra political crisis needs to be sent to a larger bench. The SC’s directions come just ahead of the August 8 hearing the poll panel had set to hear the Shinde camp’s plea over his claim on the Shiv Sena.
“Let no precipitative action be taken… we are not passing any order. But at the same time, don’t take any precipitative action,” the CJI said.
The three-judge bench also comprising Justices Hima Kohli and Krishna Murari was hearing petitions filed by the Shiv Sena and its rebel MLAs during the recent Maharashtra political crisis which raised constitutional issues including those related to splits, mergers of political parties, defections, and disqualifications.
“We will decide whether to refer the matter to the 5-judges constitution bench,” the bench said.
The Shinde camp had earlier submitted during the hearing that courts should refrain from getting involved in internal decisions of the party taken democratically and by a majority.
In the course of the hearing, the CJI also raised questions to the Shinde camp asking if it was not endangering democracy by completely ignoring political parties after being elected. To this, senior advocate Harish Salve, appearing for the Shinde faction, replied to the CJI’s question in the negative.
In its representation before the top court, the EC submitted that it is bound by rules to decide on a claim raised by a group. If the MLAs are disqualified, they no longer are members of the Assembly, but that does not apply to the claims with regard to the political party. The EC further said that whatever happens in the Assembly is completely different from the membership of a political party.