SCO Shorts: Shiv Sena’s Floor Test in Maharashtra

SC refuses to delay the impending Maharashtra floor test. Uddhav Thackarey promptly resigns as CM.

Rapid developments unfolded in Maharashtra’s political landscape on the night of June 29th, 2022. Following unusually late hearings, Justices Surya Kant and J.B. Pardiwala decided not to intervene in the Governor’s call for a floor test, in which the Uddhav Thackarey-led MVA government must prove its majority in the State Legislative Assembly.  Placed before the Bench was one question—can the floor test be conducted before disqualification proceedings against 16 rebel MLAs are completed?

Why it Matters?

The Shiv Sena has been embroiled in controversy since prominent MLA Eknath Shinde revolted against the party, taking 38 Shiv Sena MLAs with him. With the Shiv Sena’s majority in question, the Governor called for a floor test

Shiv Sena holds 55 out of 288 seats in the Assembly. Shiv Sena’s allies, the NCP and Congress have 53 and 44 seats respectively. The BJP, Shiv Sena’s main competitor, has 106 seats. To win the floor test, the government will need half of the House strength (144 members) to vote in their favour. 

If the floor test happens first, the rebel MLAs could vote against the MH government. If the disqualifications proceedings happen first, they could be disqualified before the floor test.

The Challenge

During the near four hour long hearing, Senior Advocate Dr. A.M. Singhvi for the MH Government argued that the ‘constitutional sin’ of defection by rebel MLAs must be investigated before the floor test is conducted. Notably, Dr. Singhvi argued that the Speaker’s hands were tied in the disqualification proceedings due to the Court’s Stay Order on the Speaker’s powers to disqualify dated June 28th. The Court must now ensure that ineligible MLAs do not vote in the floor test due to this stay. 

Senior Advocate N.K. Kaul, appearing for the rebel MLAs, argued that the speaker must prove majority support before using their powers to disqualify members. Delays in a floor test will only threaten the health of the democracy, according to Mr. Kaul. 

What did the Court say?

The SC refused to stay the Maharashtra Governor’s call for a floor test. Instead, it stated that the outcome of the floor test would be subject to the outcome of the present challenge, which will be heard next on July 11th. 

Delivering an Interim Order instead of a Judgment, the Court gave no reasons for its decision. 

What next? 

Within minutes of the Supreme Court’s decision, Mr. Uddhav Thackeray resigned in a virtual address to the public.

The Bottom Line

A split within the Shiv Sena is imminent. The door is also wide open for the Maharashtra BJP to consolidate its majority in the State under Leader of the Opposition, Devendra Fadnavis. Eknath Shinde will take over as Chief Minister of Maharashtra.