Raising voice in party without crossing ‘Laxman Rekha’ not defection: Sr Adv Harish Salve for Eknath Shinde tells Supreme Court

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Salve argued that if there is dissatisfaction within the party and if the party feels someone else should be their leader, it does not amount to defection.

Senior Advocate Harish Salve, appearing for Eknath Shinde in petitions pertaining to Maharashtra Political crisis on Wednesday, argued before the Supreme Court that raising one’s voice in a political party without crossing the 'Laxman Rekha' is not an act of defection.

Salve argued that if there is dissatisfaction within the party and if the party feels someone else should be their leader it does not amount to defection. He added that the number of people who did not want Uddhav Thackarey to continue as the Chief Minister was so large that he resigned. Salve contended that the the court has never interfered in working of political parties. He said, "There is a very narrow area in which court can intervene in party’s working.”

He submitted that if a person who is elected from a political party goes to the governor and conveys that he is voting for a member of another political party, he maybe disqualified. However, if a member feels that the CM is not enjoying the support, he is not disqualified. Salve said, “Ultimately a member from Shiv Sena is now in office of the Chief Minister.”

The Queens Counsel, while saying there is no act of defection in the present scenario, said, “Are we in such a hopeless situation that a person, who cannot find support from 15 MLAs in his party is brought back by the court?”

Salve argued that in a democracy, people can gang up and tell the Prime Minister that he can’t continue and they will have to resign.

Salve argued that a person belonging to a political party can be disqualified from being the member of a house if he voluntarily gives up the membership of the party or if he votes contrary to the whip issued by the party.

It was argued that the reading the reliefs sought by Uddhav camp in isolation may be misleading therefore Salve urged the court to go through the petition as a whole. Salve further said, “Heaven’s don’t fall if Chief Minister is changed. Let us look into whether the appointment of speaker was appropriate and was as per law.”

Since the court expressed that it would not be possible to refer to the paper books of every petition, Salve informed the court that a reply would be filed by the Shinde camp detailing their stand and replying to the averments of the petitions by Uddhav Camp.

Court adjourned the batch of petitions to August 1, 2022 and directed both the sides to frame the issue that they are going to argue and circulate the same before Wednesday (July 27, 2022). Court has directed that Shinde's camp shall file a common counter affidavit in all the pleas filed by the Uddhav camp. 

Case title: Eknath Shinde Vs Dy Speaker Maharashtra Legislative assembly, Sunil Prabhu Vs Principal Secretary to Government of Maharashtra and other petitions.