The Supreme Court on Monday in effect kept disqualification proceedings, initiated against 16 rebel Shiv Sena MLAs led by Eknath Shinde, in abeyance as it extended the period for them to file their response to the notice issued by Maharashtra deputy speaker Narhari Zirwal till July 12.
A bench comprising Justices Surya Kant and JB Pardiwala said status quo needs to be maintained to decide the competing claims. Acting on Shinde’s petition challenging the disqualification notices issued to him and 15 other rebel MLAs last week, the apex court extended the deadline given to the MLAs to file their written submissions on the notices till July 12. They had been asked to submit their replies by 5.30 pm on Tuesday.
“We have to decide [the] very competence of the deputy speaker if he is entitled to proceed with the matter. Today, we have to ensure that the matter does not become infructuous,” the judges said, while issuing notices to chief whip Sunil Prabhu, leader of legislative party Anil Chaudhary and the Union government, among others.
While fixing the next date of hearing on July 11, the top court also sought a response from the deputy speaker to explain if he should deal with the disqualification proceedings until a question related to his removal is decided, since the rebel MLAs had served a notice of no confidence in him. It also refused to consider, for now, a plea that till the issue of disqualification is decided, no floor test be conducted in the Maharashtra assembly.
The rebel MLAs are opposing the continuance of the Maha Vikas Aghadi government led by Shiv Sena in alliance with NCP and Congress. Shortly after the SC’s interim court order, Shinde tweeted, “This is the victory of the Hindutva emperor Balasaheb Thackeray’s Hindutva and the thoughts of Dharmaveer Anand Dighe Saheb ..!”
Maharashtra has been facing a political imbroglio as Shinde, a minister and Shiv Sena legislative party leader, along with other MLAs, is holed up in a Guwahati hotel.
The top court also recorded a statement from the Maharashtra government counsel that no harm would be caused to the life and property of the 39 rebel MLAs staying in Guwahati and their families, in view of threats to them and incidents of vandalism of their offices.
Senior counsel NK Kaul, appearing for the MLAs, questioned the “undue haste and hurry” shown by the deputy speaker in issuing notices on the disqualification petitions. He said the deputy speaker has no authority to decide the disqualification petitions until the matter of his removal is not adjudicated upon under Article 179 C of the Constitution.
Senior counsel AM Singhvi and Devadutt Kamat, appearing for the Shiv Sena legislative party leader and chief whip, contended that there was no reason not to send the rebel MLAs to the high court, and a bogey of no confidence against the speaker and deputy speaker is unsanctioned under the law as the removal has to be due to a cause.
Senior counsel Rajeev Dhavan, appearing for the deputy speaker, said a notice sent by rebel MLAs on June 22, expressing no confidence in him, was not taken on record and rejected as he was not sure of genuineness and authenticity of emails.