The Supreme Court has permitted jailed Maharashtra MLAs Nawab Malik and Anil Deshmukh to vote in the floor test, which the Governor has ordered to be held tomorrow to test the majority of the Maha Vikas Aghadi Government. The Top Court gave green signal for the floor test to be held tomorrow.
Since they are in judicial custody in cases registered by ED/CBI, the vacation bench of Justices Surya Kant and JB Pardiwala directed both the agencies to escort them to the Vidhan Sabha hall. When proceedings are over, applicants shall be brought back to judicial custody.
The plea was mentioned earlier today for urgent listing by Advocate on Record Sudhanshu Choudhari. The bench agreed to hear the petition at 5.30 PM today, along with the petition filed by Shiv Sena Chief Whip Sunil Prabhu challenging the Governor's direction for floor test.
While permitting the floor test to be held tomorrow, the Bench also allowed Malik and Deshmukh to participate in the house proceedings. It orally observed,
"Let them participate, they are elected MLAs. On a hypothetical situation, any central agencies can implicate MLAs in cases and prevent them..."
The plea was opposed by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta. He pointed that the Supreme Court had earlier refused to allow them to vote in the Maharashtra Legislative Council elections. He also cited Section 69(5) of the Representation of People's Act, which bars persons in prison from voting.
However, the petitioners contended that the floor test is not like an ordinary election covered under Section 69(5) of RP Act.
Subsequently, the SG agreed that they can vote in floor test, while remaining in constructive custody of the Enforcement Directorate. "They will come in ED Custody and go back in ED custody," SG says.
Today morning, the bench agreed to hear at 5 PM today the petition filed by Prabhu, after an urgent mentioning was made by Senior Advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who termed the Governor's direction for floor test "illegal", as it is issued when disqualification petitions against Eknath Shinde and 15 rebel MLAs are pending.
While Malik is the Minority Development Minister, Deshmukh is the former Home Minister of Maharashtra. Both members of the Nationalist Congress Party are lodged in a prison in Mumbai in two separate cases under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act.