The Supreme Court today said that it cannot disqualify the Eknath Shinde-led Maharashtra government and rejected the submission to reinstate Uddhav Thackeray as chief minister because the latter had chosen to resign instead of facing a test of strength in the assembly.
After the verdict, Uddhav Thackeray said that people who had left his party had no right to ask him questions, and if Eknath Shinde has any morality he should submit his resignation.
A five-member Constitution bench led by the Chief Justice of India, which had been hearing a batch of petitions filed by both the groups of the Shiv Sena from February this year, today ruled that the exercise of discretion by the then Maharashtra Governor BS Koshyari to conduct a Floor Test was not in accordance with the Constitution of India.
The bench also said that the Speaker’s decision to appoint Bharat Gogawale a whip of the Eknath Shinde group was wrong.
The whip has to be appointed by a political party, the court observed.
The Supreme Court referred its 2016 judgment in the Nabam Rebia case to a larger bench for judgment in the case of the defection of 16 MLAs in June 2022 from the then Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena.
The Thackeray faction had sought disqualification of the MLAs under the anti-defection law of the country.
The top court said that the Speaker must decide on disqualification petitions within a reasonable time.
The top court said there were no communications relied on by the Governor indicating that the dissatisfied MLAs wanted to withdraw support to the government. The Governor erred in relying on the resolution of a faction of MLAs of Shiv Sena to conclude that Uddhav Thackeray had lost the support of the majority of MLAs.
It stated that the status quo cannot be restored as Uddhav Thackeray did not face the Floor Test and tendered his resignation. Hence, the Governor was justified in administering the oath to Eknath Shinde with the support of the largest party BJP.
The Supreme Court said that a Floor Test cannot be used as a medium to settle inter and intra-party disputes.
The Nabam Rebia judgment had held that Speakers cannot issue disqualification notices when a notice seeking their removal is pending.
The Supreme Court also said the Speaker if he finds that the motion for his removal is not as per procedure, then he could proceed with the petitions seeking disqualification of the MLAs.
The top court held that the Speaker’s decision to appoint Bharat Gogawale (Eknath Shinde) as the whip of the Shiv Sena party was illegal. The top court said that the Speaker should recognize only the whip appointed by the political party.
The judgment was delivered by a five-judge bench of Chief Justice DY Chandrachud and Justices MR Shah, Justice Krishna Murari, Justice Hima Kohli, and PS Narasimha.
The five-judge bench delivered the judgment on a batch of cross-petitions filed by Uddhav Thackeray and chief minister M Eknath Shinde factions on the Maharashtra political crisis.
The then-governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari’s decision to invite Shinde to form the government along with the Bharatiya Janata Party after Thackeray chose to resign.
The court had earlier reserved the order after all the parties concluded their arguments.