We’re not dissidents, we’re Shiv Sena: Shinde camp to SC

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New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday said the floor of the House is the only way to settle all issues that have entangled the politics of Maharashtra following a rebellion by Sena leader Eknath Shinde leading to a survival crisis of the Uddhav Thackeray-led coalition government.

The apex court made the statement while hearing a petition filed by the Maharashtra government challenging governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari’s order asking the chief minister to prove his majority in the floor of the Assembly on Thursday. The matter was mentioned before the apex court by Senior Advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi for an urgent hearing by evening.

A vacation bench of the SC, headed by Justice Surya Kant and also comprising JB Pardiwala, said, “Our understanding is that the floor of the House is the only way to settle all issues.” It added the court will deal with the petition on disqualification of rebel MLAs separately.

Singhvi, arguing for Sena Shiv chief whip Sunil Prabhu, earlier complained against the “supersonic” speed of the governor in ordering a floor test. He said two NCP MLAs are down with Covid, while two Congress legislators are abroad. “Heavens won’t fall if the floor test doesn’t take place tomorrow,” he said.

Singhvi said it would not be proper to pave the way for a floor test while tying the speaker’s hands. Either allow the speaker to decide the disqualification proceedings or defer the floor test, he said.

Senior Advocate Neeraj Kishan Kaul, who argued for the Shinde faction, said disqualification proceedings or resignation of MLAs cannot be a ground to delay a floor test. “A body of SC judgments has laid down that floor test mustn’t brook any delay,” he added.

Calling the MVA government a hopeless minority in the party itself, Kaul said, “They want to somehow cling on to power despite being in hopeless minority. I have seen parties rushing to this court for getting the floor test conducted as soon as possible and here we have a party trying to delay it. Everyone knows why,” he added. “The more delay you cause to the floor test, greater is the damage to the democratic polity,” said Kaul.

Speaking about the electoral college, Singhvi said it is like putting a cart before the horse when disqualified proceedings against the Eknath Shinde camp is yet to be ascertained by SC. There is a court regime at this point of time, added Singhvi.

The governor has sought to render infructuous proceedings before the Supreme Court by ordering the floor test, he said. SC asked how the floor test order renders court proceedings infructuous. “Is there any minimum time schedule for holding floor test?”

The bench asked how does a floor test relate to or impact the disqualification proceedings or interferes with the powers of the speaker to conduct disqualification proceedings.

Singhvi said, “The members who already stand disqualified as on date may be allowed to participate in the floor test.”

Someone who already stands disqualified as on June 21 cannot be allowed to vote tomorrow, Singhvi said, adding this court must avoid such a situation.
“It will be allowing something that cuts at the root of democracy.”

The SC said, “There are different scenarios. When the speaker’s power to disqualify has been challenged, will the deemed disqualification still work?”

The court further said all are unanimous that the object of Tenth Schedule (anti-defection law) must be strengthened in the interest of democracy. “There is no quarrel of this and everybody agrees that this court should strengthen the Tenth Schedule.”

Referring to a letter submitted by 34 rebel Sena MLAs to the governor, Singhvi said, “This itself amounts to giving up membership as per SC decisions.”

The SC will also pass an order on pleas made by jailed NCP leaders Anil Deshmukh and Nawab to allow them to participate in the floor test.

Meanwhile, Thackeray is holding a cabinet meeting in the wake of the latest developments in the state.