Supreme Court extends time for Eknath Shinde and other MLAs to file replies in disqualification proceedings before Dy Speaker

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A Supreme Court bench of Justice Surya Kant and Justice JB Pardiwala today extended time granted by Deputy Speaker to  Eknath Shinde and other MLAs to file their response in their disqualification petition. The speaker had asked them to respond to the same by 5.30 PM today.

The time has now been extended till 5:30 PM on July 12, 2022. 

Court also recorded the statement of the counsel for Maharashtra that steps have been taken maintain law and order and to protect the life and property of all 39 MLAs and their family members. The matter will now come up for hearing, on July 11, 2022.

The counsels for both the sides have been asked to file their respective pleadings. 

Appearing for Shinde, Neeraj Kishan Kaul, Sr. Adv argued that Deputy Speaker of Maharashtra cannot proceed on disqualification of MLAs, till his own disqualification is decided. The court questioned him as to why he has not approached Bombay High Court with this plea. Kaul submitted that, the circumstances in Maharashtra are not conducive for them to pursue a litigation there in the light of a Shiv Sena spokesperson openly issuing a threat. 

Kaul further that, a Deputy speaker whose very own existence is in doubt, cannot remove people who are in favour of his disqualification. He added that if this action is permitted, it will lead to other consequences. 

Dr. Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Sr. Adv, appearing for Shiv Sena, argued that there is no reason why the High Court cannot hear this matter. He further submitted that the MLAs sent this notice from an unknown, unverified email. He informed the court that the validity of the notice is under doubt.

Dr. Rajeev Dhawan, Sr. Adv, however confirmed that the notice has been received, however a reply has been sent to verify its authenticity. 

The court, on hearing the submissions, informed the counsels that they cannot decide on the issue till the facts are clarified. The court thus passed an order, directing the respondents to file a reply in five days and granted time to Shinde to file a rejoinder if any. 

Upon passing the above order, Devadatt Kamat, Sr. Adv, appearing for one of the respondents, urged the court to pass an interim order to not hold any floor test till July 11, 2022. The bench, however remarked "We cannot pass that order as that would create unnecessary complications. If anything illegal happens, you (MVA) can always move SC."

Court has thus refused to pass any interim order on the plea that there should not be any floor test in Maharashtra legislative assembly till July 11. 

Top Court was hearing a plea by Shinde seeking a direction to the Deputy Speaker, to not take any action in the Disqualification Petition moved by Shiv Sena, seeking disqualification of Shinde and other MLAs.

It has been further sought to stay the Deputy Speaker's notice on the disqualification plea against Shinde and others. The plea further urges the court to quash the order of the Deputy Speaker recognizing Ajay Choudhari as Shiv Sena Legislature Party leader.

According to the plea, the action of Deputy Speaker, is arbitrary and an illegal exercise of provisions of Members of Maharashtra Legislative Assembly (Disqualification on ground of Defection) Rules, 1986. It is further alleged that the Deputy Speaker's action of recognising Ajay Choudhury as the leader of the Shiv Sena Legislature Party is illegal and unconstitutional, as it was taken on the request of a minority faction of the party.

Between 2021 and 2022, there was great dissatisfaction prevalent amongst the members of Shiv Sena Party on account of Corruption in the Government, the plea states. During last two and half years, the Party and its leadership have compromised party principles with different ideology that of INC and NCP and despite many requests from the members of the party, the leadership did not heed to requests to take steps to align his ideologies with the ideologies of the Balasaheb Thackeray, the petition adds.

It has also been alleged that Sunil Prabhu, claiming to be group leader of the Shiv Sena Legislature Party sent notice to Shinde, to attend meeting at 5 pm on June 22, 2022. Shinde replied to the notice stating that Prabhu has no authority to call the meeting of the Shiv Sena Legislature Party. Furthermore, Shinde said that the authority vests with the group leader i.e. Eknath Shinde & Bharat Gogavale, who are the Chief Whip. It has been stated that, therefore the meeting called by unauthorised persons is not accordance with the procedure established under law and consequently the notice is invalid.

Shinde is said to be aggrieved by the Deputy Speaker's notice/summon on the petition for disqualification, moved by Shiv Sena in the assembly. It has been pleaded that the summons are unconstitutional in terms of the judgment of Supreme Court in Nabam Rebia & Bamang Felix VS Dy. Speaker, Arunachal Pradesh Legislative Assembly.

According to the plea, the seat of the Speaker is vacant since Nana Patole resigned from office in February, 2021. Thus, there is no authority who can adjudicate upon the disqualification petition under which the Impugned Notice has been issued to Shinde. 

Case title: Eknath Shinde vs. Deputy Speaker of Maharashtra Legislative Assembly