Maharashtra’s ruling Eknath Shinde camp told the Supreme Court on Tuesday that the rival party led by Uddhav Thackeray wanted the chairman of the state assembly to usurp the powers of the election commission when the ultimate test of majority in a democracy – the floor test – was ordered by the governor during the political crisis of 2022.
Senior advocate Neeraj Kishan Kaul, acting for the Shinde bloc of the former undivided Shiv Sena, told a five-judge bench headed by Chief Justice D.Y. Chandrachud that a nine-member apex court constitutional bench had said in its 1994 verdict a floor test is the litmus test of democracy and a prime minister cannot shy away from it.
Kaul told the bench, which also included Justices MR Shah, Krishna Murari, Hima Kohli and PS Narasimha, that if the chief minister shirks the responsibility of facing the floor test, it means he will not enjoy the majority of the House .
Kaul said it is by law that the Speaker of the House must judge prima facie whether a political party split has occurred based on the material presented to him and that he cannot launch a roving investigation.
Judge Narasimha told Kaul, “Our difficulty is that you are formulating a prima facie principle. The difference between a split and rival faction is very thin. It is very easy for a Speaker to say at first glance whether it is a case of splitting or not.
“But we are left with the question of what the contours should be for the Speaker to take a prima facie position. It’s slippery ground because Speaker is asked to take a prima facie position based on the material presented to him, such as signatures from MLAs and others. How much material should there be to enable a Speaker to take a prima facie position?” Judge Narasimha said.
A political party and the Legislative Party are united and interdependent and they cannot be separated, Kaul argued while apparently referring to the claim of the Thackeray faction earlier that the Shiv Sena was not split due to the uprising of some of the party led by Shinde.
“Discord is the hallmark of democracy. The other side’s argument that we (Eknath Shinde faction) represent the legislature party and not the original political party is a fallacy. This court has said that Speaker will not launch an independent inquiry into whether there is any split in the party, dehors (without) disqualification. With regard to disqualification, the Speaker is only required to take a prima facie position, but they (Uddhav faction) ask Speaker to appropriate what he does not have,” Kaul said.
“They want the speaker to have the jurisdiction that belongs to the Election Commission and they want the Governor to exercise the jurisdiction that the Election Commission has. The governor cannot give in to counting staff in Raj Bhawan, but can ask for a majority vote on the floor of the House,” Kaul argued.
The governor should take a prima facie position based on convincing evidence at his disposal, such as withdrawing support from the ruling party, and ask for a floor test as soon as possible, because it is the “only litmus test in democracy”, he said.
Kaul added that the argument of the Uddhav Thackeray faction is that the June 27 court order of last year overthrew the state government, but the fact is that this court intervened only after the chairman had given the Shinde group two days to respond to the show’s announcements. that also on weekdays.
The Thackeray faction had previously told the Supreme Court that the formation of a new government under Shinde was the “direct and inevitable result” of two apex court orders dated June 27, 2022 (barring the speaker from adjudicating pending disqualification requests ) and June 29 December 2022 (allowing the vote of confidence to be held). It had said the two orders upset “the equal and mutual balance” between the state’s judicial and legislative bodies.
Senior advocate Mahesh Jethmalani, also acting for the Shinde faction, said there was simmering discontent and division not only among party cadres but also lawmakers, as evidenced by statements made by various MLAs from time to time since the start of the post-polling alliance called Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA).
“The irreconcilable disagreements arose on June 21 last year over a long-standing ideological rift with coalition partners – Congress and the NCP – and the first salvo was fired by the Uddhav Thackeray faction after they ousted Eknath Shinde as Legislative Party leader and there a whip was issued to MLAs that party meeting is scheduled at the home of then chief minister Uddhav Thackeray. After that, there was no possibility of reconciliation because party forums became irrelevant,” he said.
Senior advocate Maninder Singh, who also represents the Shinde faction, said that when splinter groups or rival parts of a political party claim to be “the recognized political party”, the situation falls entirely under the exclusive jurisdiction of the Election Commission.
The hearing remained undecided and will continue on Wednesday.
On March 2, the Shinde faction had told the top court that the pleas relating to the June 2022 political crisis in Maharashtra fell within the realm of politics and that the judiciary cannot be asked to rule on the matter.
A political crisis had erupted in Maharashtra following open rebellion in the Shiv Sena, and on 29 June 2022, the apex court denied the Maharashtra Governor’s order for the 31-month-old MVA government to take a floor test in the meeting, to stop. to prove his majority.
Sensing defeat, Thackeray had resigned, paving the way for a government led by Shinde.
On August 23, 2022, a three-judge bench of the supreme court headed by the then Chief Justice N. V. Ramana had formulated several points of law and referred to the five-judge bench petitions filed by the two Sena factions raising various constitutional questions related to apostasy, merger and disqualification.
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(This story has not been edited by News18 staff and was published from a syndicated news agency feed)