Constitution bench says floor test called by Koshyari illegal
Geetanjali Minhas | May 11, 2023 | Mumbai
In a unanimous verdict on a clutch of pleas relating to the political crisis that led to the fall of Maharashtra’s Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government led by Uddhav Thackeray following a revolt by the Eknath Shinde faction, the Supreme Court on Thursday said that Shiv Sena (UBT) leader Uddhav Thackeray cannot be reinstated as chief minister as he voluntarily resigned from the post without facing a floor test.
The court also said that former Maharashtra governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari’s decision to call for a floor test that toppled the MVA government was illegal. It held that the Koshyari’s decision without objective material to conclude that Thackeray had lost majority was wrong and not in accordance with the law.
“Status quo ante cannot be restored as Mr Thackeray did not face the floor test and resigned and thus the governor was correct in calling Eknath Shinde to form the government,” the court observed.
“Nothing shows members withdrew support and communication showed it disagreed with some policy decision of the Uddhav Thackeray government. Whether there would be deliberation or whether they (rebel MLAs) will merge with another party was unclear,” the court said as it underscored that the governor must use objective criteria and not subjective satisfaction.
The SC further said the governor is not entitled to enter political arena and play a role in an intra-party or inter-party dispute and he could not have acted on the basis that some members want to leave Shiv Sena.
The top court was hearing the issue of disqualification of 16 MLAs belonging to CM Shinde’s Sena. The 16 MLAs, including Shinde, were sent disqualification notices for not attending a party meeting convened by the then CM Uddhav Thackeray despite the whip which was issued.
The court also held that Speakers decision to appoint Shinde group-backed Bharatshet Gogawale as the whip of Shiv Sena party was illegal.
The constitution bench of the chief justice of India, DY Chandrachud, and justices MR Shah, Krishna Murari, Hima Kohli and PS Narasimha referred to a larger bench the issue relating to speaker’s powers as laid down in the 2106 judgment in Nabam Rebia case. The court said that Nabam Rebia judgment did not decide on whether a speaker against whom a disqualification notice was pending could decide on disqualification petitions against MLAs.
The court held that the majority legislature party is not the competent body to appoint the party whip as that will amount to severing the umbilical cord of the legislature party with the political party. It ruled that appointment of Bharatshet Gogawale as the party whip in the house by the Shinde faction of Shiv Sena was illegal.
Speaking on the Supreme Court proceedings, Thackeray said that the assembly speaker should make a decision at the earliest. “As per the Supreme Court, now the speaker will have to consider our whip as it was appointed by the political party,” he said.
Welcoming the SC order, chief minister Eknath Shinde said, “This is the victory of people and democracy.”
Deputy CM Devendra Fadnavis said that all MVA schemes have failed. “All MLAs have right to participate in the House regardless of pendency of their petitions.”
Maharashtra assembly speaker Rahul Narvekar said, “There was no clarity on Schedule 10 that whether a political party or legislature party can decide on the whip. Now that Hon'ble SC has given a clear interpretation we will accordingly decide. Earlier there was no clarity.”
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