4 July 2023 8:14 AM GMT
The Shiv Sena (Uddhav Thackeray) party MP Sunil Prabhu has moved the Supreme Court seeking a direction to the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly Speaker to expeditiously decide on the disqualification pleas pending against rebel Sena MLAs led by Eknath Shinde. The disqualification pleas have been pending since over a year. In its May 11, 2023 constitution bench judgement in the matter pertaining...
The Shiv Sena (Uddhav Thackeray) party MP Sunil Prabhu has moved the Supreme Court seeking a direction to the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly Speaker to expeditiously decide on the disqualification pleas pending against rebel Sena MLAs led by Eknath Shinde. The disqualification pleas have been pending since over a year.
In its May 11, 2023 constitution bench judgement in the matter pertaining to the Shiv Sena rift, the Supreme Court had held that it could not order the restoration of the Uddhav Thackeray government as Thackeray had resigned without facing floor test. Further, the Supreme Court refused to use its powers under Article 226 and Article 32 in the matter and stated that “there are no extraordinary circumstances in the instant case that warrant the exercise of jurisdiction by the court to adjudicate the disqualification petition”. Accordingly, the court had handed over the decision of determining the disqualification petitions to the Speaker adding that the speaker “must decide the disqualification within reasonable period”.
The disqualification petitions against the rebel MLAs were filed by Sunil Prabhu, the Shiv Sena party whip appointed by Uddhav Thackeray, on 23 June 2022, after the MLAs revolted against Thackeray. The notices of disqualification were issued by Deputy Speaker Narhari Zirwal in the absence of the Speaker.
Through the petition, it has been submitted that other than the Supreme Court ordering the speaker to decide the disqualification pleas, the petitioner has also sent more than three subsequent representations to convene a hearing in the said disqualification matters. As per the petition the Speaker while performing its functions under Para 6 of the Tenth Schedule, acts as a judicial tribunal, and is required to act in a fair and unbiased manner. Additionally–
"The constitutional requirement of fairness enjoins upon the Speaker the obligation to decide the question of disqualification in an expeditious manner. Any unreasonable delay on the part of the Speaker in deciding the petitions for disqualification contributes to and perpetuates the constitutional sin of defection committed by the delinquent members."
The petition argues that the Speaker’s inaction in deciding the disqualification proceedings is an act of "grave constitutional impropriety" as his inaction allows MLAs who are liable to be disqualified to continue in the assembly and to hold responsible positions in the government of Maharashtra including that of the Chief Minister.
Stating that the Speaker occupies a constitutional office, and is required to rise above their political affiliations while performing the duties of the office, the petition adds–
"A long period has elapsed ever since the filing of the disqualification petitions against the delinquent MLAs of the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly, but they have still escaped the constitutional consequences of committing the sin of defection."
Accordingly, the petition has sought for the decision of disqualification pleas to be taken in a time-bound manner, preferably within a period of two weeks by the speaker.
In its judgement, the Supreme Court had also held that the Speaker's decision to appoint Mr. Gogawale (backed by the Shinde group) as the whip of the Shiv Sena party was illegal.
"To hold that it is the legislative party which appoints the whip will mean severance of the umbilical chord with the political party. It means group of MLAs can disconnect from the political party. Whip appointed political party is crucial for tenth schedule," the bench stated. The bench remarked that the Speaker was aware of the emergence of two factions in the legislative party on 3 July 2022 when he appointed a new whip. The court stated–
"The Speaker did not attempt to identify which of the two persons - Mr.Prabhu or Mr. Gogawale- was the whip authorised by the political party. Speaker must recognise only the whip appointed by the political party."