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Maharashtra Political Crisis | Supreme Court gives rebel Sena MLAs time till July 12 to reply to disqualification notices

Issues notice to the Maharashtra assembly deputy speaker Narhari Zirwaalso also asks the government to ensure safety of the rebel MLAs and those of their families

June 27, 2022 / 04:18 PM IST
The Supreme Court of India. (File image)

The Supreme Court of India. (File image)

The Supreme Court on June 27 issued notice to the Maharashtra assembly deputy speaker Narhari Zirwal on petitions filed by rebel Shiv Sena MLAs led by Eknath Shinde, challenging the move to disqualify them.

The court gave the rebel camp time till July 12 to respond to the disqualification notices issued to them by the deputy speaker, while the case will be heard next on July 11.

The Maharashtra government was plunged into a crisis after the Shinde-led camp of the Shiv Sena, the largest party in the ruling combine, rebelled and bolted to Surat and then Guwahati last week.

The camp says that the party’s truck with Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party was against the principles of party founder Bal Thackeray.

Cracking down on the rebels, Zirwal issued notices to 16 of them after the government sought their disqualification. The faction moved the court against the notices, saying they were not given enough time to file their response. The deadline was to lapse on June 27 at 5.30 pm.

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The court also issued notices to the principal secretary of the assembly, Ajay Choudhari, who has been named the Shiv Sena legislature party leader, and others.

When the court asked the rebel MLAs why they did not approach the Bombay High Court, senior advocate NK Kaul, representing the faction, said that the atmosphere was not conducive for the Shinde camp to exercise its legal rights in Mumbai.

Follow all live updates of the Maharashtra political crisis here

There was an apprehension of threat to the life and liberty of the MLAs of the Shinde camp, Kaul said.

The vacation bench of the apex court headed by Justice Surya Kant asked the Maharashtra government to ensure adequate steps were taken to protect the rebel MLAs and their families.

The rebel faction also argued that the disqualification proceedings carried out by the deputy speaker were unconstitutional and couldn’t be sustained.

Abhishek Manu Singhvi, representing chief minister Uddhav Thackeray and Choudhari, argued that the petitions should have been filed before the Bombay High Court instead of "leap-frogging" to the Supreme Court directly.

The political crisis reached the country's top court when the rebel MLAs in two separate but similar petitions challenged the disqualification notices as well as Choudhari’s appointment.

Also read: Amid Maharashtra crisis, ED summons Sanjay Raut on June 28 in money-laundering case

One of the petitions was moved by Shinde, while the second was filed by 15 of the rebel MLAs who were issued disqualification notices.

The pleas sought relief on multiple grounds including a stay on notice of disqualification issued to the MLAs, directions to the deputy speaker to not act on the disqualification petitions while the issue of his removal was being decided. The rebels MLAs also sought security.

The rebel faction has argued that the disqualification notice was not maintainable, as the group was in majority in the assembly and they had not given up their Sena membership.

Shinde has been claiming the support of 38 of the 55 Shiv Sena MLAs, one more than two-thirds of the strength that the faction needs to escape disqualification under the anti-defection law. The Sena is the biggest member of the Maha Vikas Aghadi alliance in the 288-member assembly.

The notice for disqualification also carried a time frame of 48 hours for a response, which was not sufficient as per the disqualification rules and the assembly’s rules, they argued.

The deputy speaker’s actions were in line with the ruling alliance among Shiv Sena, NCP, and Congress parties and not independent, they said.

The Shinde faction is camping in Guwahati as the political crisis plays out in India’s richest state.
Shruti Mahajan
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