The Supreme Court on Thursday, 4 August, told the Election Commission (EC) that it should not decide upon the Eknath Shinde faction's plea to be recognised as the 'real Shiv Sena' until the court decides on referring the matter to a larger bench.
Chief Justice of India (CJI) NV Ramana said that the bench would take a call on referring the matter to a larger bench on Monday, 8 August.
"We are not passing any order, but in the meantime, don't take any precipitative action," Ramana told EC. "We will decide whether to refer the matter to the 5-judges constitution bench," the bench, also comprising justices Krishna Murari and Hima Kohli, said.
The apex court was hearing the petitions filed by the Shiv Sena and its rebel MLAs during the recent Maharashtra political crisis, which raised constitutional issues including those related to splits, mergers of political parties, defections, and disqualifications.
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for the Uddhav Thackeray faction, argued that 40 of the 50 MLAs of the Eknath Shinde faction could not be considered as the "real Shiv Sena" while there were disqualification proceedings pending against them.
"This is not a normal case. Here the entire claim is based on support of majority MLAs. If they are disqualified, claim goes. Where does the balance of convenience lie?" Sibal said, as quoted by LiveLaw.
Senior advocate Arvind Datar, appearing for the Election Commission, said that the body was bound to decide if a claim was raised by a group.
"If they are disqualified, they cease to be members of legislature. Not a political party. These are different. Whatever happens in the assembly, that has got nothing to do with the membership of the political party," Datar said.