Video Editor: Prashant Chaunan
Holding that the communication expressing discontent was not sufficient for the Maharashtra governor to call for a floor test, a constitution bench of the apex court on Thursday, 11 May, observed that the governor's action was "illegal".
"In the present case, the governor did not have any objective material to indicate the government had lost confidence…so his exercise was not legal,” the Supreme Court said.
However, the court added that because the former Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray had resigned already, it cannot restore the status quo ante in Maharashtra. The court, thus said that “the governor was correct in calling Eknath Shinde to form the government.”
Further, the apex court stated that the floor test cannot be used as a medium to solve intra-party or inter-party differences.
“There is a difference between a party not supporting government and members of some political party being unhappy,” it added.
With regards to the disqualification petitions, the court has left the matter in the speaker’s hands, saying:
“This Court cannot ordinarily adjudicate petitions for disqualification under the Tenth Schedule in the first instance. There are no extraordinary circumstances in the instant case that warrant the exercise of jurisdiction by this Court to adjudicate disqualification petitions. The Speaker must decide disqualification petitions within a reasonable period.”
The verdict was delivered by a bench comprising Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud, Justice MR Shah, Justice Krishna Murari, Justice Hima Kohli, and Justice PS Narasimha after reserving the judgement on 16 March.
What Else Did SC Say?
Among other things, the SC also held:
The Nabam Rebia judgment to be referred to a larger bench, to decide on whether the notice of removal of speaker stops him from deciding disqualification of members
The political party, and not the legislature party (the majority of a single political-party MLAs in the house), appoints the whip…the direction to vote or abstain from voting in a particular manner is also given by political party
The speaker’s decision to appoint Bharatshet Gogawale as the the chief whip post Eknath’s Shinde’s statement, without an enquiry to identify the whip, was illegal
The Long Legal Battle
The verdict by the Supreme Court comes 10 months after Shinde engineered a coup against the Uddhav Thackeray-led party and the Maha Vaikas Aghadi (MVA) government.
Shinde, along with 39 other MLAs, eventually joined hands with the BJP in the state to form the government.
Shinde had first moved the apex court challenging the notices issued by the then Deputy Speaker Narhari Zirwal against the rebels under the tenth schedule of the Constitution over alleged defection.
The Thackeray camp had then filed please challenging the decision of then Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari to call for a trust vote and the swearing-in of Eknath Shinde with the BJP's backing. The Thackeray camp also filed a petition against the appointment of the new Speaker amid the crisis.
(With inputs from Bar and Bench.)