Maharashtra: Setback for MVA govt, SC allows floor test in assembly tomorrow

Uddhav Thackeray and Eknath Shinde. Photo: ANI

Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday said that Maharashtra's Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government will have to face a floor test in the Assembly scheduled on Thursday.

A vacation bench of Justices Surya Kant and J.B. Pardiwala refused to interfere with Governor's direction to the MVA government to prove its majority in the Assembly on June 30. "We are not staying the floor test. We are issuing notice... you can file counter," it said.

"We have drafted this short order. We are not staying the floor test as convened by the Governor. We are issuing notice in the writ petition. You can file a counter in five days. We will hear on merits along with other cases on July 11. Tomorrow's proceeding will depend on the final outcome of this petition," the bench said.

A vacation bench of Justices Surya Kant and J B Pardiwala also asked Uddhav Thackeray led-Shiv Sena group how can floor test impacts the disqualification process or interfere with the powers of the Speaker to conduct disqualification proceedings.

Senior Advocate Neeraj Kishan Kaul, representing rebel Shiv Sena Minister Eknath Shinde, told the bench in SC, "First and foremost it is to be decided if the Speaker has to be removed or not," referring to Nabam Rebia's decision that disqualification cannot be decided until a decision on Speaker's removal is taken.

"It is well settled that a floor test should not be delayed. Merely because of pendency of proceedings relating to whether MLA has resigned or 10th schedule is no ground to interdict floor test. Supreme Court has held both are distinct issues," he said.

The slightly different argument put forward by Senior advocate AM Singhvi, appearing on behalf of Prabhu is that the proceedings are not voluntarily kept pending by the Speaker but are stopped because of orders of the Supreme Court.

"I will respond to your lordship's pertinent observation. When we came to court, an overwhelming majority was with us. We also write to Speaker that you don't enjoy the majority of the House. On June 24th, the Speaker gives us a disqualification notice. On this context, we came here, Kaul said.

"It is not as if your lordships are interfering with the proceedings. My principal argument was that Speaker has no authority. That is settled by the Constitution Bench judgment."

Listening to Kaul's arguments, Justice Kant said, "This argument suggests that first of all we should determine the competence of the Speaker."

"Supreme Court in its judgement had said disqualification proceedings have no bearing on floor test. The floor test is the healthiest thing that can happen in a democracy. Supreme Court says the moment a Chief Minister shows reluctance, it prima facie gives the view that he has lost the confidence in the House," Kaul said on behalf of the rebel faction of Shiv Sena.

The Bench of the Supreme Court asked Kaul, in response to these arguments, "Can there be a situation against democratic morality that the government, knowing that it has lost the majority?"

"This unfolding situation requires a floor test and Governor in his discretion has decided to hold it," senior advocate Neeraj Kishan Kaul, representing Eknath Shinde tells Supreme Court.

Senior Advocate Neeraj Kishan Kaul further said, "I have seen everyone keen to take the floor test. I have seldom seen a party so afraid to conduct a floor test."

"Normally parties rush to Court to say hold the floor test because someone else is hijacking the party. Here, the opposite is sought, the party wants no floor test. Where does the natural dance of democracy take place?," Kaul said.

Singhvi said,"It is repeatedly argued by the other side that the Speaker is always suspect, always a political, but the Governor is a holy cow. That Governor can never be wrong, but the Speaker, the persona designate under 10th schedule is political.Those who believe that the Speaker is only political and Governor can never be political, I tell them, wake up and smell the coffee, don't live in ivory towers. This is a Governor who has not allowed nominations to MLC for one year."

"Does the Governor have a single sentence in the order that the issue is subjudice before the Supreme Court and despite that I am exercising?, Singhvi added.

"Two days before the Governor comes to Raj Bhavan, meets the leader of the opposition yesterday and issues the order today. But the Speaker is to be always a suspect. Governors are not angles. They are humans. The Governor did not address the issue of sub judice. He did not verify. He did not call the Chief Minister for his view," Singhvi added.

"Please look at the real world. A floor test done tomorrow, followed by a disqualification to be proceeded by the Speaker, is irreversible. We cannot live in a theoratical world, it is irreversible. Floor test and disqualificaiton of MLAs are undoubtedly related after this court has put a fetter on the Speaker. Either defer the floor test for a week or prepone the other matter, that is the only way to balance,"Singhvi concluded.

As the political turmoil in Maharashtra continues to unfold, the Leader of Opposition in the Maharashtra Assembly Devendra Fadnavis accompanied by 8 independent MLAs on Tuesday submitted a letter to the Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari and demanded an immediate floor test.

"We have given a letter to the Maharashtra Governor demanding an immediate floor test," Devendra Fadnavis said.

Sources earlier today also learned that eight independent MLAs have sent an email to the registered email address of the Maharashtra Governor demanding for an immediate floor test. It is being reportedly said that Fadnavis will further demand a meeting with the Governor.

Former Chief Minister and BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis met Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari at Raj Bhavan on Tuesday.

Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Tuesday appealed to the rebel MLAs to come for talks. "Don't fall prey to anyone's missteps. The honour given to you by Shiv Sena cannot be found anywhere. If you come forward and speak, we will sort out the issues. As Shiv Sena party chief and family head, I am still worried about you. Come here for a dialogue," he said.

Meanwhile, rebel leader Eknath Shinde stated that he will return to Mumbai soon and that his faction was taking "Balasaheb's Shiv Sena forward". Shinde has claimed the support of over 50 MLAs.

In a jolt to the Maha Vikas Aghadi government in Maharashtra, senior Shiv Sena Minister Eknath Shinde and other rebel MLAs revolted against the party on June 20 and camped in Gujarat's Surat. Later, the rebel MLAs shifted base to a hotel in Guwahati. (ANI)

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