Supreme Court of India | Photo: Mathrubhumi
New Delhi: The floor of the House is the only way to settle these issues of democracy, observed the Supreme Court on Wednesday while hearing Shiv Sena chief whip Sunil Prabhu's plea against Maharashtra Governor's direction to the Uddhav Thackeray-led Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government to take a floor test in the Assembly on Thursday.
A vacation bench of Justices Surya Kant and J B Pardiwala also asked senior advocate A M Singhvi, appearing for Prabhu, how can floor test impacts the disqualification process or interfere with the powers of the speaker to conduct disqualification proceeding.
“Our understanding is that floor of the house is the only way to settle these issues of democracy,” the bench observed.
Singhvi told the apex court that people who have changed sides do not reflect the will of people and heavens won't fall if the floor test is not held tomorrow.
He argued that the court must not allow a floor test to be held till the deputy speaker decides on the disqualification petition against some rebel MLAs.
Singhvi told the bench that the order to conduct a floor test at a “supersonic speed” amounts to putting the cart before the horse.
He said two MLAs of the NCP are down with COVID-19 while two MLAs of the Congress are abroad and they are asked to participate in the floor test on Thursday.
Singhvi argued that allowing floor tests would mean making Tenth Schedule a “dead letter”.
The bench observed that the Tenth schedule is one of the robust provisions and the court should strengthen it.
The hearing in the matter is underway.
Earlier in the day, the bench had taken note of submissions of Singhvi that an urgent hearing was needed in view of the decision taken by Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari asking the MVA government to prove the majority at 11 am on Thursday.
The bench had agreed to hear the matter at 5 PM today.
The petition has contended that the Governor vide communication dated June 28, 2022 (which was received today i.e., on June 29 at about 9:00 am) has decided to hold a floor test in complete defiance of the fact that this court is seized of the issue of the disqualification proceedings.
"Such undue haste is manifestly arbitrary and therefore violative of Article 14," said the plea and sought directions seeking setting aside of the impugned communication sent by the Governor to the Chief Minister as well as to the secretary of the Assembly.
Koshyari has asked the Maharashtra Legislature Secretary to hold a floor test of the MVA government at 11 am on Thursday.
The Governor's letter comes amid the rebellion in the ruling Shiv Sena by senior minister Eknath Shinde, who has been camping in Guwahati since last week with the majority of party legislators and several independent MLAs, which has pushed the government led by Thackeray, who is also the Sena president, into a crisis.
In his letter sent to Maharashtra Legislature's Principal Secretary Rajendra Bhagwat, Koshyari, said, "A special session of the Maharashtra Vidhan Sabha (legislative Assembly) shall be summoned on June 30 (Thursday) at 11 am with the only agenda of a trust vote against the chief minister, and the proceedings shall be concluded in any case by 5 pm."
"The proceedings of the House shall be telecast live and appropriate arrangements for the same shall be made," the letter said.
BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis had on Tuesday night met the governor and requested him to ask the Thackeray-led government to prove its majority in the Assembly, claiming that the Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress coalition dispensation seemed to be in the minority as 39 Sena MLAs who belong to the Shinde faction have said they do not support it.
Earlier, the apex court on June 27 had kept in abeyance the disqualification proceedings against rebel Shiv Sena MLAs before the Deputy Speaker of the state Assembly till July 11, and also sought responses from the state government and others on their pleas questioning the legality of notices seeking their disqualification.
The top court had refused to pass any interim order on a vehement plea by senior advocate Devdutt Kamat, appearing for the MVA government, that in the meantime there should not be any floor test in the Assembly. The court said the state government can always approach it in case of any illegality.
Shinde and 15 other rebel Sena MLAs have moved the top court challenging the disqualification notices issued by the Deputy Speaker under the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution on grounds including defection.
Besides Shinde, the other 15 MLAs 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.
Shinde and a sizeable number of MLAs rebelled against the leadership of Chief Minister Thackeray on June 21. PTI