Today, the tussle between two Shiv Sena settled a bit, but the court hinted that the errors made by former Governor of Maharashtra Bhagat Singh Koshyari have done a lot of damage to the Maha Vikas Aghadi government. Bhagat Singh created a lot of chaos time and again, and to maintain his loyalties towards the BJP, he never gave a fair chance to the Uddhav Thackeray government.
The Supreme Court on Thursday said that the Maharashtra Governor was not justified in calling upon then Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray to prove a majority in the Assembly on June 30 last year but refused to order status quo ante, saying he did not face the floor test and resigned. In a unanimous verdict on a batch of pleas related to the political crisis that led to the fall of the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government led by Uddhav Thackeray following a revolt by the Eknath Shinde faction, a five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice DY Chandrachud held that the House speaker’s decision to appoint Bharat Gogawale of the Shinde faction as the whip of the Shiv Sena was “illegal.”
The court said, “The opposition parties did not issue any no-confidence motion. The governor had no objective material to doubt the confidence of the Government. The floor test cannot be used as a medium to resolve inter-party disputes or intra party disputes. Even if it is assumed that the MLAs wanted to exit the government, they constituted only a faction”. It went on to add, “Nothing in any of the communications relied on by the Governor indicated that the dissatisfied MLAs wanted to withdraw support to the Government. The Governor erred in relying on the resolution of a faction of MLAs of Shiv Sena to conclude that Uddhav Thackeray had lost support of the majority of MLAs.”
The court held that the security concerns expressed by MLAs (from the Shinde faction) have no bearing on the support of the government. “This was an extraneous consideration on which the governor placed reliance. The governor ought not to have relied on the said letter… It did not indicate that Mr.Thackeray lost support. “The governor did not have any objective material to indicate the government had lost confidence in the house,” it said.
The Supreme Court has been hearing from June 2022 onward a batch of petitions filed by leaders from the Thackeray and Shinde factions. The Shinde camp challenged the June 21 decision of Assembly Deputy Speaker Narhari Zirwal (of the NCP) to recognize Ajay Choudhari as leader of the Shiv Sena Legislature Party (SSLP) in place of Shinde, who had rebelled against Thackeray and gone to Surat with some MLAs, calling it “illegal, unconstitutional”, and taken with bias.” The plea also challenged the disqualification notices that Zirwal had served on Shinde and 15 MLAs supporting him on June 25 for not attending a party meeting convened by then Chief Minister Thackeray. The rebels had been given 48 hours (until June 27) to respond.
Relying on Nabam Rebia, the Shinde camp argued that Zirwal could not act on the disqualification petition against the 16 MLAs while a notice for a resolution seeking his own removal was pending. In response, Zirwal told the court that the no-confidence motion against him was rejected because the genuineness or veracity of the notice could not be ascertained.
On June 27, a bench of Justices Surya Kant and J. B. Pardiwala extended until July 12 the deadline given by Zirwal to the 16 Shinde camp MLAs to reply to the disqualification notices. However, the court refused to restrain the holding of the floor test in the Assembly until then.
A five-judge Constitution Bench, which ruled on petitions filed by the Uddhav Thackeray and Shinde camps. The Supreme Court also said that while it cannot interfere in the proceedings, the Speaker of the Maharashtra Assembly must decide on the issue of the disqualification of the 16 MLAs, including Shinde. As the apex court did not intervene in the disqualification proceedings, their outcome will be subject to the decision of the Maharashtra Speaker.
The SC held that since Uddhav Thackeray resigned as the chief minister and did not face the floor test, his government cannot be reinstated. It said that had Thackeray refrained from resigning from his post, the court could have restored his government.
The court held that by calling the floor test, the then Maharashtra governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari did not act in accordance with the law as he had no objective material to doubt the confidence of the Thackeray government in the House. It added that the governor had erred in relying on the resolution of a faction of MLAs of the Shiv Sena to conclude that Uddhav Thackeray had lost the support of the majority of the legislators in the Assembly. At this point in time, there is no other option left for Uddahv Thackeray and his Shiv Sena to fight the upcoming elections and win with a majority if they want to regain power in the state. Somehow Shinde got some relief in retaining power, but the challenge ahead is to maintain the same status.