Maharashtra Political Crisis Day # 8: SC Will Hear The Petitions On November 29th

Disqualification Proceedings Against Maharashtra MLAs

On November 1st, 2022, a Constitution Bench led by Justice DY Chandrachud posted the batch of petitions pertaining to the Maharashtra Political Crisis for hearing on November 29th, 2022. The Bench asked the lawyers appearing for both sides  to complete the compilation of the case they are going to rely on, and formulate issues that will have to be decided. 

The Bench also comprising Justices MR Shah, Krishna Murari, Hima Kohli, and PS Narasimha named Advocates Javed Ur Rehman and Chirag Shah as nodal counsels to collect and compile documents and judgments from both the sides. To carry out this exercise, the Bench granted four week time. The Court has asked lawyers appearing for both sides to decide  the issues  for consideration in order to avoid repetition of arguments. 

Background:

On June 21st, Shiv Sena party member Mr. Eknath Shinde,  went missing, along with a number of Shiv Sena MLAs. On the same day, Mr. Uddhav Thackeray called an emergency party meeting which the rebel MLAs refused to attend. The Shiv Sena removed Mr. Eknath Shinde as the Legislature-Party leader. Mr. Shinde responded claiming that he had the support of over 40 MLAs, and represented a significant portion of the party. He further said that, with a dwindling group of supporters, Mr. Thackeray was no longer the party’s chosen representative. 

On June 24th, 2022, Mr. Uddhav Thackeray urged the Deputy Speaker to begin disqualification proceedings against the rebel Shiv Sena MLAs, including Mr. Eknath Shinde, for defecting from the Shiv Sena. On the same day, two independent MLAs moved a ‘no confidence’ motion against the Deputy Speaker Mr. Zirwal, stultifying his power to decide on Shinde’s disqualification. 

The next day (June 25th, 2022), Mr. Shinde’s faction of the Shiv Sena challenged the disqualification proceedings before the Supreme Court on two grounds. On June 27th, 2022, a Vacation Bench of the Supreme Court comprising Justices Surya Kant and J.B. Pardiwala issued an unusual Order, staying the disqualification proceedings. 

On June 28th, 2022, the Shinde faction requested the Governor of Maharashtra, Mr. Bhagat Singh Koshyari to direct a floor test in the Assembly. Mr. Koshyari agreed to conduct the floor test on June 30th, 2022. Immediately, the floor test was challenged by the Thackeray faction in the Supreme Court. After four hours of arguments, on June 29th, 2022, the Supreme Court refused to stay the floor test. Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray resigned within the hour, making way for the Shinde faction to consolidate power. 

The Thackeray faction argued that the Shinde faction’s actions—disregard for the party Whip, appointment of a new Deputy Speaker, call for floor test, and insistence of the Shinde faction’s majority—were all acts of defection. An exception under Para 3 of the Tenth Schedule once stated that splitting within a party with a minimum of one-third of the party members was not defection. However, this exception was repealed in 2003 through the Constitution (Ninety-First Amendment) Act. Meanwhile, the Shinde faction approached the EC to use the party symbol in upcoming local polls. 

Today, on passing the order, the Bench indicated that it will list the cases for direction on November 29th, 2022 to ensure all the pleadings are in order and list the case for hearing immediately thereafter.