New Delhi [India], June 27 (ANI): The Supreme Court on Monday granted interim relief to rebel Shiv Seva leader Eknath Shinde and other MLAs to file their reply to disqualification notices issued to them by the Deputy Speaker of Maharashtra Assembly by July 12, 5.30 pm.
Earlier, the Deputy Speaker had granted them time to file a reply by today, 5.30 pm.
A vacation bench of Justices Surya Kant and JB Pardiwala, in its order, said, "As an interim measure, the time granted by the Deputy Speaker, to the petitioners or other similarly placed MLAs to submit their submissions today by 5.30 pm, stands extended till July 12. The petitioners or other MLAs are at liberty to submit their reply without prejudice to their rights in the writ petition."
The top court has now posted the matter for hearing on July 11.
The apex court was hearing the petitions filed by the Shinde group challenging 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.
The bench also issued notices to the Deputy Speaker, Secretary of Maharashtra State Legislative Assembly, the Centre, Ajay Chaudhary, and Sunil Prabhu and asked them to file a reply within five days.
On the request of providing security to 39 MLAs alleging threats to them, the Supreme Court recorded the statement of the standing counsel of the Maharashtra government, Rahul Chitnis, that adequate steps have already been taken and the state government will further ensure that no harm is caused to the life, liberty, property of the MLAs.
During the hearing, senior advocate Neeraj Kishan Kaul appearing for Eknath Shinde and others told the Supreme Court that the Deputy Speaker cannot proceed with the disqualification proceedings when the resolution seeking his removal is pending.
Maharashtra government's standing counsel also questioned the MLAs why they have not approached the Bombay High Court with the pleas.
To this, Kaul responded that in any number of cases like floor test, or disqualification, the Supreme Court had passed the order and also "a minority of the legislative party" is subverting the state machinery, attacking MLAs' houses.
They are saying that our dead bodies will be returned from Assam, the atmosphere is not conducive for us to exercise our rights in Mumbai, Kaul added.
Threats have been given to these MLAs and it was said that bodies of 40 MLAs will arrive back in Mumbai, he added.
Kaul further argued that the Deputy Speaker has no authority to deal with the issue till the question of his removal is decided. What is sought to be done in this matter is undue haste, violation of principles of natural justice, he added.
The Bench also remarked that the issue before the Court is whether the Deputy Speaker can decide on disqualification petitions against the MLAs when there is a notice by the MLAs seeking the removal of the Deputy Speaker himself.
Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for the Uddhav Thackeray group, contended that Article 212 of the Constitution bars the court's scrutiny when the Speaker is deciding the issue. All internal management is barred from judicial scrutiny, he said.
Two petitions have been filed, one by Shinde and the other by rebel MLAs, challenging the disqualification notice issued by the Deputy Speaker and the appointment of Ajay Chaudhary as leader of the legislative party.
They called the action to issue disqualification notices to them on June 25 as "illegal and unconstitutional" and sought a stay on it.
They sought directions from the Deputy Speaker to not take any action in the disqualification petition against them. The Shinde camp claimed the move was illegal since disqualification can happen only for matters in the assembly and not for skipping a party meeting.
The Eknath Shinde camp has also challenged the appointment of Ajay Choudhary as the Shiv Sena Legislature Party leader by the Thackeray camp.
They have also asked the court to direct the Maharashtra government to provide security to their families.
Shinde, along with a sizable number of Shiv Sena MLAs are camping in a hotel in Assam's capital Guwahati as they rebelled against Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray-led Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government ruling Maharashtra.
Shinde, in his plea, stated that the Deputy Speaker has lost his position as the MVA government has been reduced to a minority and in such a situation, he has no authority to invoke provisions of the Members of Maharashtra Legislative Assembly (Disqualification on Ground of Defection) Rules, 1986, and send notices to him and 15 other MLAs, which form part of the breakaway group of 38 Sena legislators.
Shinde in his petition said, "It is common knowledge that the current government in Maharashtra, led by the Maha Vikas Aghadi alliance, has lost the majority in the House as 38 of the members of the Shiv Sena Legislature Party have withdrawn their support thus bringing it below the majority in the House. However, the MVA government continues to misuse the office of the deputy speaker to ensure that they remain in power by whatever means."
The plea said that the disqualification notices are classic examples of the Deputy Speaker acting hand-in-glove with the MVA government in an attempt to hastily disqualify Shinde along with his supporters, bypassing all cannons of law.
Maharashtra has had no Speaker since Nana Patole resigned in February 2021 to take over as Congress chief. Deputy Speaker Zirwal belongs to the NCP.
The 15 petitioners are - Bharat Gogawale, Prakash R Surve, Tanhaji Jaywant Savant, Mahesh S Shinde, Abdul Sattar, Sandeepan A Bhumre, Sanjay P Sirhsat, Yamini Y Jadhav, Anil K Babar, Latabai C Sonawane, Ramesh N Bornare, Sanjay B Raimulkar, Chimanrao R Patil, Balaji D Kalyankar and Balaji P Kinilkar.
The plea said on June 21, 2022, the majority members of the Shiv Sena Legislature Party held a meeting and a resolution was passed appointing Bharat Gogavale as the Chief Whip of the Shiv Sena Legislature Party and also reaffirmed the Shinde as the 'Gatneta'/Leader of the Legislature Party.
Shinde said, "Sunil Prabhu, claiming to be the chief whip, no longer holds the said post and therefore (the deputy speaker) has no legal authority to maintain the said petition under the 10th Schedule of the Constitution of India." (ANI)