Supreme Court to hear petitions pertaining to Maharashtra political crisis on August 1, 2022

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Harish Salve, Senior Advocate, appearing for the Eknath Shinde camp, submitted that if a large number of people within the party, seek to change its leadership without leaving the party, it does not amount to defection.

A Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice of India, Justice NV Ramana, today adjourned the batch of petitions pertaining to the Maharashtra Political Crisis to August 1, 2022.

During the course of the hearing, the CJI opined that some of the issues that have been raised in the petition may require the consideration of the larger bench. The court has however not passed any order on the reference. 

The bench, also consisting of Justices Krishna Murari and Hima Kohli, further directed both the sides to frame the issue that they are going to argue and circulate the same before Wednesday (July 27, 2022). The court has directed that Shinde's camp file a common counter affidavit in all the pleas filed by the Uddhav camp. 

The court was hearing a batch of petitions pertaining to the Maharashtra Political crisis.

Representing the Uddhav Thackeray faction of the Shiv Sena, Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal argue that democracy will be in danger if governments in any state can be toppled despite the bar under the tenth schedule of the Constitution.

He further submitted that by voting against the official whip issued by Shiv Sena, some legislators have violated the Tenth Schedule. He told the court that the Governor should not have sworn Eknath Shinde as the Chief Minister, as he had sought to separate himself from the party that was elected by the people in the 2019 assembly election, hence he should be disqualified.

Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Sr. Adv, appearing for the Uddhav camp argued that members of Eknath Shinde’s faction addressed an email to the then Deputy Speaker seeking his removal and sent it from an unauthorized email. He submitted that the Deputy Speaker did not take it on record as none of the MLAs appeared personally.

Singhvi submitted that disqualification provisions will not be attracted only if 2/3rd MLAs merge with another party. He informed the court that these MLAs have not merged with any other party yet. Singhvi submitted that the majority in the assembly now is a contrived majority as legally, these MLAs should have been disqualified and pool in floor test would have been different.

Harish Salve, Senior Advocate, appearing for the Eknath Shinde camp, argued that the entire issue pertains to an intra party dispute and it is sought to be diverted through disqualification proceedings. Salve, submitted that if a large number of people within the party, sought to change its leadership without leaving the party, it does not amount to defection.

Salve, emphasized that raising a voice within one’s own party, without crossing the limits, does not amount to defection. He further sought to refer to the pleadings filed by the Uddhav camp to show that the points of law raised by them, do not square up with the pleadings. Thus, he sought time to file a comprehensive reply to all the petitions by the Uddhav Camp.

The Chief Justice of India, at this point, informed the counsels, of the possibility of referring these matters to a larger bench. He opined that some issues raised in the pleas may need the consideration of the larger bench.

CJI queried Sibal as to what will be the outcome if a Chief Minister does not enjoy the confidence of his party despite being the leader in the Legislative Assembly. Sibal replied that the political party has to take the call in this regard.

The bench thus adjourned the matters to August 1, 2022.

In June, Eknath Shinde had moved the Supreme Court asking 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.

A vacation bench of Justices Surya Kant and Pardiwala had extended time granted by Deputy Speaker to  Eknath Shinde and other MLAs to file their response in their disqualification petition. 

Sunil Prabhu, the erstwhile Chief Whip of Shivsena and a Member of the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly had moved the Supreme Court under Article 32 of the Constitution challenging the Governor's communication to hold a floor test on June 30, 2022 . The Supreme Court, however, refused to stay the floor test in Maharashtra on June 30, 2022. 

After the hearing in Supreme Court on June 29, 2022, Bharat Gogawale, the Shivsena MLA from Mahad, filed an application seeking to suspend Eknath Shinde and other 'delinquent MLAs' from the membership of the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly, as an interim measure, till their disqualification petitions are finally decided. The vacation bench, however, refused the urgent listing of the plea. 

Eknath Shinde took oath as the Chief Minister of Maharashtra on June 30, 2022. Subsequently, on July 3, 2022, a floor test was conducted and he emerged successful. His camp moved a plea for disqualification of Shiv Sena MLAs, who did not vote for Shinde at the floor test. 

On July 11, 2022, Supreme Court orally asked the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly Speaker to not decide matters pertaining to the disqualification of the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly Members till the petitions filed by the delinquent MLAs of Shiv Sena challenging the disqualification proceedings are pending before the Apex Court. The Uddhav camp has also challenged the decision of the Governor to appoint Shinde as the Chief Minister. 

The matter will now come up for hearing on August 1, 2022.

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