17 Oct 2023 12:11 PM GMT
The Supreme Court today granted a "final opportunity" to the Speaker of the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly for laying down an appropriate schedule for expeditious hearing of the disqualification petitions filed in relation to rift within the Shiv Sena and the Nationalist Congress Party. On the last hearing, the court had criticised the Speaker for laying down a long schedule for the Shiv...
The Supreme Court today granted a "final opportunity" to the Speaker of the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly for laying down an appropriate schedule for expeditious hearing of the disqualification petitions filed in relation to rift within the Shiv Sena and the Nationalist Congress Party. On the last hearing, the court had criticised the Speaker for laying down a long schedule for the Shiv Sena cases and had asked the Speaker to give an appropriate time-estimate for hearing the petitions. The bench comprising CJI DY Chandrachud, Justice JB Pardiwala, and Justice Manoj Misra expressed its dissatisfaction with the time schedule which had been indicated before the court by the Speaker earlier, since adhering to that time schedule, as per the court would not result in any immediate or foreseeable conclusion in the disqualification proceedings.
The bench was hearing the writ petitions filed by Sunil Prabhu, member of Shiv Sena (Uddhav Thackeray) and Jayant Patil, member of NCP (Sharad Pawar) seeking expeditious decision by the Speaker on the disqualification petitions filed respectively against the Eknath Shinde and Ajit Pawar factions.
At the outset, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta submitted that it may not be "realistic" for him to give a time estimate to the court today and sought for additional time to do the same. "Please have it after the 28th," stated the SG. However, the CJI seemed disinclined to grant additional time, stating–
"He has to decide Mr SG. And he goes on to give interviews that we are a co-equal branch of the government, the Supreme Court is supreme in its own way. He has been giving interviews. He is not doing his job. He is amenable to the jurisdiction of this court. We are not controlling what is happening on the floor of the house– there, the house is absolutely supreme. But hearing a disqualification proceedings – he is a tribunal. He is amenable to the court's jurisdiction."
SG Mehta clarified that he was not aware of any of these interviews but expressed his regrets if any such thing was said, stating that the same would presumably have been unintended. The SG further requested to be permitted additional time so that he could have a "one-on-one dialogue" with the Speaker. He added that some of the petitions had been filed very recently.
Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal, representing both the petitioners, argued that the same was not true and that the speaker had been sitting over the proceedings since long. He pointed out that the disqualification petitions were filed by the Uddhav group in July last year.
"This court has held that decision has to be in 3 months." Sibal referred to the judgment authored by Justice Nariman in 2020.
Upon further details being provided by the counsels, the CJI stated that it was important for the court to have a timeframe in the matter and to see that actions were being taken to decide the proceedings. Responding to the same, the SG stated that he was not aware that the court wanted to keep tabs on the day to day of the proceedings but that he would provide the bench with a timeframe.
Following this, the CJI remarked–
"We want to set down our time frame for him to come to a final conclusion. We see that the NCP batch of petitions were filed a little late, but he must first deal with the petition filed by the Uddhav Thackeray faction way back last year, which remained pending. Even for the NCP matters, he must simultaneously ensure that he issues procedural directions so that there is a time frame."
Adding on to this, the CJI stated–
"These are summary enquiries. These are not enquiries before the Election Commission on party symbols where you have to take evidence etc on which is the real political party. That we understand. But the speakers enquiry is limited enquiry."
As the proceedings came to a draw, the CJI stated that the bench was inclined to pass an order fixing a time schedule, unless the SG assured the court that he would sit down with the speaker and set out a time line for disposal. The SG assured the bench that he would sit down with the speaker during the coming Dusshera holidays.
Taking the same into account, the CJI passed an order stating–
"The disqualification petitions have to be adjudicated upon with expeditiously otherwise the very purpose of the 10th schedule will stand defeated. We are not satisfied with the time schedule which has been indicated before this court since adhering to that time schedule will not result in any immediate or foreseeable conclusion in the disqualification proceedings. Mr Tushar Mehta, SG has apprised that during Dusshera breaks, he would personally engage with the Speaker so as to indicate a firm set of modalities to ensure the conclusion of the hearing of the election petitions. Before this court issues directions setting out the time schedule for compliance, we are of the view that a final opportunity should be granted to prescribe a realistic time schedule for the disposal of the disqualification petitions."
The matter has been listed for 30.10.2023, immediately upon the re-opening of the court post breaks.
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
Click Here To Read/Download Order