13 Oct 2023 7:42 AM GMT
The Supreme Court on Friday (October 13) criticised the Speaker of the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly for laying down a long schedule for hearing the disqualification petitions filed by the Uddhav Thackeray and Eknath Shinde factions of Shiv Sena against each other under the anti-defection law enshrined in the tenth schedule of the Constitution.Hearing a writ petition filed by the Sunil...
The Supreme Court on Friday (October 13) criticised the Speaker of the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly for laying down a long schedule for hearing the disqualification petitions filed by the Uddhav Thackeray and Eknath Shinde factions of Shiv Sena against each other under the anti-defection law enshrined in the tenth schedule of the Constitution.
Hearing a writ petition filed by the Sunil Prabhu (member of Uddhav Thackeray faction) seeking expeditious decision by the Speaker, the Supreme Court said that the Speaker should decide the matter at least before the next Lok Sabha elections and should not render the issue infructuous by delaying it.
On the previous hearing date (September 18), the Court had expressed dissatisfaction with the Speaker for keeping the disqualification petitions pending since July 2022 and asked him to lay down a schedule for hearing.
Today, Senior Advocates Kapil Sibal and Dr. Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for the Uddhav group, said that Speaker has now framed a hearing schedule for one year. Saying that the Speaker has laid down an elaborate timeline for cross-examination and recording of evidence, Sibal wondered whether the procedure was a civil suit. He stated that the proceedings under the tenth schedule are supposed to be summary in nature.
"This is becoming a farce...", Sibal told a bench comprising Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud, Justice JB Pardiwala and Justice Manoj Misra which was hearing the batch of petitions seeking direction to the Maharashtra Speaker to expeditiously decide on the disqualification pleas pending against rebel MLAs.
CJI conveyed the displeasure of the bench regarding the Speaker's conduct to Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta.
"Mr. Solicitor, somebody has to advise the Speaker. He cannot defeat the orders of the Supreme Court. What kind of time schedule he is prescribing? This is a summary procedure. Last time, we thought better sense will prevail and asked him to lay down a schedule. The idea of laying down the schedule was not to indefinitely delay the hearing. Because then their apprehension is correct," CJI told the SG.
"He must give the impression that he is taking the matter seriously. Since June, there is no action in the matter...What has happened in the case? Nothing. This cannot become a charade. There has to be a hearing," CJI added.
Saying that the Speaker exercising powers under the tenth schedule is a Tribunal, the SG asked if the Supreme Court can interfere with the day to day functioning of the Tribunal. But the CJI asserted that as a Tribunal, the Speaker is amenable to the Supreme Court's jurisdiction.
"We issued notice on 14 July. Thereafter we passed an order in September. Now seeing that the speaker has not taken any steps, we are constrained to say that he must take a decision in 2 months." CJI orally remarked.
Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the Shinde group, objected to the Court passing the directions to the Speaker to decision. However, the bench reiterated that the Court can put the Speaker to account if he is delaying a decision despite the direction of the Court.
"The decision has to be taken well before the next elections and this cannot go on merrily to render the whole process infructuous," CJI stated. The CJI also asked Rohatgi why his clients were fearing a decision by the Speaker.
Ultimately, the bench adjourned the hearing till next Tuesday (October 17) asking the Speaker to give a hearing schedule.
"If we don't find that a proper time schedule is set out, we will pass a peremptory order setting down a timeline." CJI stated while underlining that the Court was concerned about its orders not being followed by the Speaker. "I'm concerned about maintaining the dignity of our court," he added.
Previously, the bench had noted that a total of thirty four petitions filed by both sides against each other seeking the disqualification of fifty six MLAs are pending.
Also listed along with the Shiv Sena matter was a writ petition filed by Jayant Patil, member of Sharad Pawar faction of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) for expeditious decision by the Speaker against the Ajit Pawar faction. Both the matters will be considered next Tuesday.
Case Title: Sunil Prabhu v. The Speaker, Maharashtra State Legislative Assembly W.P.(C) No. 685/2023 + Jayant Patil Kumar v. The Speaker Maharashtra State Legislative Assembly W.P.(C) No. 1077/2023