The Supreme Court on Wednesday extended the stay on disqualification proceedings by the Maharashtra Speaker and asked both sides — the Uddhav Thackeray and Eknath Shinde factions — to respond to notices by July 27. A top court bench led by CJI NV Ramana, also comprising Justices Krishna Murari and Hima Kohli, was hearing a batch of please filed by both sides, including a challenge by the Uddhav Thackeray faction to the disqualification proceedings initiated against them.
The Uddhav faction of the Shiv Sena has also challenged the decision of Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari to invite the Eknath Shinde camp to form a new government in the state when the matter was pending before the apex court.
Acknowledging the importance of the case, the Supreme Court asked the parties to frame the issues by July 27 for consideration by a larger bench and posted the matter for next hearing on August 1. “We request counsels of both sides to prepare a compilation by next Wednesday, after which a larger bench will be constituted for the hearing on August 1″ the CJI said.
The court said it will be looking at answers to the issues concerning the absence of the split concept, and whether a minority party leader has the right to disqualify a party leader.
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, representing the Uddhav Thackeray camp of the Shiv Sena, argued that if the principle of toppling a government is accepted, every elected government can be toppled. “This will harm democracy. The only protection is for merger under para 4 of tenth schedule. 40 members of Shiv Sena, by their conduct, are deemed to have incurred disqualification by giving up party membership as per para 2 of tenth schedule,” Sibal argued, according to Live Law.
Sibal further said that by voting for a candidate put up by the BJP as Speaker in violation of the official whip, the rebel MLAs have automatically attracted disqualification. “The Governor should not have sworn in the new government when the Supreme Court was hearing the matters,” Sibal added.
Senior advocate Harish Salve, representing Eknath Shinde, replied, “The moment you gather enough strength within the party and stay within the party to question the leader without leaving the party, and…defeat you in the House, that is not defection. After the Chief Minister resigns, and another government is sworn-in, it is not defection.”
Earlier, the CJI-led bench had on July 11 granted interim relief to the Uddhav Thackeray faction of 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 grounds of defying the party whip during the trust vote and the election of the Speaker.