The Supreme Court on Tuesday posted for February 14 the hearing of a batch of petitions filed by rival factions Uddhav Thackeray and Chief Minister Eknath Shinde in relation to the Maharashtra political crisis.
A five-judge Constitution bench of Chief Justice DY Chandrachud, Justices MR Shah, Krishna Murari, Hima Kohli and PS Narasimha said, “We will hear it on February 14.”
At the outset, senior advocate Kapil Sibal appearing for the Thackeray faction told the bench that in the last hearing he had indicated that he wants to argue on the need for a seven-judge bench to hear the case.
The top court will first hear arguments on whether the matter is heard by a seven-judge bench or by a five-judge bench. Sibal on the last date of the hearing told the apex court that he would argue on the reference of the matter to the seven-judge bench. Sibal sought a reference of the five-judge bench judgment in the Nabam Rebia case to a seven-judge bench.
On July 13, 2016, a five-judge Constitution bench of the Supreme Court in the Nabam Rebia case held that Speaker could not initiate disqualification proceedings when a resolution seeking his removal is pending.
Earlier, Uddhav Thackeray-led group told the apex court that there is an unconstitutional government running in Maharashtra.
In August, the top court’s three-judge bench had referred to a five-judge Constitution bench the issues involved in the petition filed by rival groups of Shiv Sena in relation to the Maharashtra political crisis.
It had said that some of the issues involved in the Maharashtra political crisis may require a larger Constitutional bench for consideration.
It had also asked the Speaker of the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly, Rahul Narwekar not to take any action on the new disqualification notices issued against the members of Shiv Sena. There are various petitions pending before the apex court filed by both factions of Shiv Sena.
The Thackeray-led faction had approached the top court challenging the Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshiyari’s decision to invite Eknath Shinde to form the government and also the Speaker’s election and floor test.
Later they challenged the Shinde group approaching the poll panel claiming they were ‘real’ Shiv Sena. They had also challenged the newly appointed Maharashtra Assembly Speaker’s action recognising the whip of the Eknath Shinde group as the whip of Shiv Sena.
The plea said the newly appointed Speaker has no jurisdiction to recognise whips nominated by Shinde as Uddhav Thackeray is still the head of the Shiv Sena official party.
Thackeray camp’s Sunil Prabhu had filed a plea seeking suspension from the Maharashtra Assembly of new Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and 15 rebel MLAs against whom disqualification pleas are pending.
Shinde group’s challenged the disqualification notices issued by the Deputy Speaker to 16 rebel MLAs as well as the appointment of Ajay Choudhary as Shiv Sena Legislature Party leader, is also pending before the apex court.
On June 29, the top court gave a go-ahead to the floor test in the Maharashtra Assembly on June 30. Refusing to stay the Maharashtra Governor’s direction to the then Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray to prove his majority support on the floor of the House on June 30, the bench had issued notice on Prabhu’s plea against the floor test.
After the apex court’s order, Uddhav Thackeray announced his resignation as the Chief Minister and Eknath Shinde was later sworn in as the Chief Minister.