Shiv Sena row: How can we reinstate a CM who did not even face floor test, asks SC; verdict reserved

The five-judge bench reserved its verdict on cross petitions filed by Thackeray and Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde factions.

Eknath Shinde | Uddhav Thackeray
Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde (L), Uddhav Thackeray (R).

The Supreme Court wondered on Thursday how it can reinstate the Uddhav Thackeray government in Maharashtra when the former Chief Minister had put in his papers even before facing the floor test, “accepting” he was in the minority, reported The Indian Express.

“It (restoring the government) would have been a logical thing to do provided you had lost the trust vote on the floor of the Assembly. Then clearly you have been ousted from power because of a trust vote which has been set aside,” said Chief Justice of India D Y Chandrachud, heading a five-judge Constitution bench, that is hearing petitions filed in the wake of the Shiv Sena political crisis.

“Our problem is, look at the intellectual conundrum. It is not that you have been ousted from power as a result of a trust vote which was wrongly summoned by the Governor. You chose not to, for whatever reason, you didn’t want to face a trust vote…,” he said.

His remarks came after senior advocate A M Singhvi, appearing for the Thackeray camp, urged the top court urging to restore the “status quo ante” (previously existing state of affairs) as was done in 2016, when it reinstalled Nabam Tuki as Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister.

The bench, also comprising Justice MR Shah, Krishna Murari, Hima Kohli and PS Narasimha, reserved its verdict on cross petitions filed by Thackeray and Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde factions.

Terming the development a “red herring”, Singhvi said prior to Governor B S Koshyari ordering the floor test, the matter was sub-judice in the top court.

“So, you are saying that Thackeray resigned only because he was called upon by the governor to face the floor test?” the court asked, to which the senior lawyer replied saying “Yes”.

CJI Chandrachud, however, said it is like the court being told to put back a government which had acknowledged that it is in a minority. “How can the court reinstate a Chief Minister who did not even face the floor test?” asked Justice Shah.

Senior lawyer Kapil Sibal, representing the Thackeray bloc, urged the five-judge bench to rescind Governor B S Koshyari’s order for a floor test, a day after the apex court questioned his conduct in calling for a trust vote merely on the ground of differences between Shiv Sena MLAs.

“I am absolutely certain that without the intervention of this court our democracy will be in danger because no elected government will be allowed to survive. It is with this hope I make this plea to this court to allow this petition and set aside the order (of floor test) of the governor,” Sibal said, as quoted by PTI.

“It is not that the government cannot run in minority. Former Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao ran a minority government. There is no scope for the governor to recognise those (rebel) MLAs and call for the floor test. Here, what they want is to topple the government and become chief minister and deputy CMs and use the position of governor for that. I don’t want to say more, everything is in the public domain,” Sibal added.

He also referred to the Emergency period of 1975 imposed by former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

“There have been occasions like the ADM Jabalpur (1976 verdict) which is in dissonance with what this court has done over years. This is an equally significant case for our democracy to survive,” Sibal said.

Following the political row following the Shiv Sena split in June 2022, the matter reached the apex court. A three-judge bench of the top court headed by then chief justice N V Ramana in August last year had formulated several questions of law and referred to the five-judge bench petitions filed by the two Sena factions which raised several constitutional questions related to defection, merger and disqualification.

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First published on: 17-03-2023 at 12:11 IST
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