The Uddhav Thackeray faction of Shiv Sena has approached the Supreme Court challenging the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly Speaker’s decision to issue a schedule for hearing of the disqualification pleas pending against rebel Sena MLAs led by Eknath Shinde.
The application contended that as per the schedule, the process of hearing would begin on October 6 and go on till November 23. It means the Speaker’s ruling was likely to come out in December or even later than that.
Noting that this was just another attempt to waste time, the Thackeray faction sought faster hearing into the disqualification pleas of rebel MLAs.
Earlier on September 18, the Apex Court had directed the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly Speaker to decide on 34 petitions filed by rival factions of Shiv Sena regarding the disqualification of 56 MLAs within a week.
The Bench of Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud, Justice J.B. Pardiwala and Justice Manoj Misra further ordered the Speaker to issue procedural directions for the completion of record and set out time for hearings. It also ordered the Speaker to serve soft copies of annexures to all respondents in the case.
The Apex Court expressed its displeasure over the delay caused by the Maharashtra Speaker in deciding the disqualification petitions filed by the Eknath Shinde faction and the Uddhav Thackeray group, noting that the Speaker cannot delay the proceedings under the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution indefinitely.
Pointing out that there has to be a sense of respect to the directions passed by the Court, the Bench asked Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Speaker, about the decisions taken by the Speaker after the May 11 judgement of this court.
It referred to the verdict delivered by the Constitution Bench this year, which directed the Speaker to decide on the disqualification petitions within a ‘reasonable’ time.
The orders were passed on a petition filed by Shiv Sena (Uddhav Bal Thackeray) party MP Sunil Prabhu seeking direction to the Maharashtra Speaker to expeditiously decide on the disqualification pleas pending against rebel Sena MLAs led by Eknath Shinde.
Appearing for the petitioner, Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal submitted that after the May 11 judgement, several representations were sent to the Speaker. Since there was no action, the present writ petition was filed on July 4 and a notice was issued on July 14. Sibal added that the Speaker did nothing even after that.
When the petition was shown for listing on September 18, the Speaker listed the matter on September 14, on which date, he said that the petitioners have not filed annexures, the Senior Advocate pointed out.
Sibal said the Speaker then adjourned the matter to be heard in ‘due course’ of time, without giving any specific date, adding that the Shinde group MLAs have filed replies running into hundreds of pages.
Sibal, while calling the entire process a ‘farce,’ requested the Apex Court to issue specific directions to the Speaker. He said the Speaker, while deciding a matter under the Tenth schedule of the Constitution, acted as a Tribunal and the Supreme Court could issue a mandamus to a Tribunal.
He further referred to the judgement authored by Justice R.F. Nariman, which set a three-month timeline for the Speaker to decide a matter under the Tenth schedule.
When SG Mehta objected to Sibal’s submissions by saying that the Speaker being a constitutional functionary cannot be ridiculed in front of other constitutional bodies, the Bench responded by saying that it appeared as if nothing had happened.
The Apex Court noted that the Speaker cannot say that he would hear the matter in due course. He has to give dates.
The SG then asked whether a Speaker was supposed to submit the details of his day-to-day functioning to the Court.
The Bench noted that since the Speaker was a tribunal under the tenth schedule, he was amenable under this court’s jurisdiction.
The Speaker has to abide by the dignity of the Supreme Court. Months have passed after the May 11 verdict, but only notice has been issued, it added.
Representing the Shinde side, Senior Advocates Neeraj Kishan Kaul and Mahesh Jethmalani blamed the Uddhav group for the delay as they failed to file the documents in time.
At this point, Sibal stated that as per the Rules of the Procedure, it was for the Speaker to supply the annexures. He contended that the Shinde side never took an objection in their replies that the annexures were never supplied.
The Apex Court then adjourned the matter by two weeks, seeking a definite timeline for the conclusion of the proceedings.