Supreme Court refers Sena vs Sena issue to larger Constitution bench

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NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Thursday referred its 2016 judgment in the Nabam Rebia case to a larger bench. The apex court was delivering its 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 Nabam Rebia judgment had held that Speakers cannot issue disqualification notices when a notice seeking their removal are pending. The Supreme Court also said the if the Speaker 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 apex court held that the Speaker’s decision to appoint Bharat Gogawale (Eknath Shinde camp) as the whip of the Shiv Sena party was illegal. The top court said that the Speaker should recognise only the whip appointed by the political party.

The verdict was delivered by a five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) D Y Chandrachud and comprised of Justices M R Shah, Krishna Murari, Hima Kohli and P S 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 had invited Shinde to form the government along with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) after Uddhav Thackeray chose to resign.

The lawyer appearing for the Uddhav Thackeray camp had said that the illegal act of the Maharashtra governor is a prior pending sub-judice challenge before the trust vote. Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for Uddhav Thackeray’s camp, had said that the governor cannot call for a trust vote based on a faction as calling for a trust vote is based on alliances.

During the hearing, the court had observed that governor should not enter into any area which precipitates the fall of a government and called Maharashtra’s political crisis a “serious issue for democracy”. The hearing, that went on for almost nine days, had witnesses and arguments made by various senior lawyers including Kapil Sibal and A M Singhvi for the Uddhav camp and Harish Salve, N K Kaul and Mahesh Jethmalani for the Shinde camp.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta represented the Maharashtra governor and explained to the court about the governor’s decision to call for a floor test after a rival camp wrote that they were withdrawing support from Uddhav Thackeray-led government as they did not want to continue.

The Uddhav Thackeray camp had submitted before the Supreme Court that if a crisis like in Maharastra was permitted, then it will have far-reaching consequences for the country as any government can be toppled. (ANI)

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