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HomeIndiaMaharashtra floor test tomorrow, appoint pro-tem Speaker: Supreme Court

Maharashtra floor test tomorrow, appoint pro-tem Speaker: Supreme Court

Supreme Court says special session of the House be called Wednesday. The floor test will be telecast live.

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New Delhi: A three-judge bench of the Supreme Court has ordered that a floor test be conducted in the Maharashtra assembly Wednesday, over 48 hours after it was approached to resolve the political crisis in the state.

The court ordered the immediate appointment of a pro-tem Speaker, and a special session of the House to be called Wednesday. The members would be administered oath and no secret ballots will be allowed. The floor test would be telecast live.

It also ordered for the oath of elected representatives to be administered before 5 pm Wednesday, after which the pro-tem Speaker would begin the floor test.

The bench also said it was “necessary to pass interim order for floor test to determine majority in Maharashtra in order to uphold democratic values and citizen’s right to good governance”.

However, on the question of whether the Governor’s decision is susceptible to judicial review or not, all parties to the case have to submit written submissions before the court within eight weeks from Tuesday.

The top court order Tuesday came on a plea by the Shiv Sena, Congress and NCP who argued for a floor test to be held within 24 hours to decide whether the Devendra Fadnavis-led BJP and Ajit Pawar-led NCP commanded majority on the floor of the House.

In an unprecedented act on 23 November, the government used Rule 12 of the Allocation of Business rules, 1960 to revoke President’s Rule in the state at 5.47 am. Governor B.S. Koshyari immediately invited Fadnavis and NCP to form the government as they had the support of 170 MLAs, as mentioned in the letter written by Fadnavis staking claim to form government. The majority mark in the 288-member Maharashtra House is 145.

In a hushed ceremony early Saturday morning, Fadnavis was sworn in as the chief minister and Ajit Pawar as his deputy.

All hell broke loose when the post-poll alliance of Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress came to know about the development. The parties immediately filed a plea in the top court against the Governor’s decision to invite BJP-NCP to form government.


Also read: Why President Kovind can be questioned for Maharashtra twist but not accused of illegality


What was said in the court

A special hearing Sunday set the judicial ball rolling where senior lawyers Kapil Sibal and Abhishek Manu Singhvi, representing the trio petitioners, contended that all documents which led to BJP-NCP form government was out of public domain and hence under suspicion.

The Governor was accused of having acted as a “pawn at the behest of the ruling party”.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta was ordered to provide the two letters, one in which Fadnavis claimed majority and the other where the governor invited them to form government. On Monday, both the original documents were produced.

Both Mehta and attorney general Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for Fadnavis, said that the court should not order an immediate floor test as BJP-NCP indeed had 170 MLAs on 22 November, but “horse trading would win” if such an action was taken.

The petitioners relied on past precedents of Karnataka crisis and SR Bommai verdict to argue that floor test was the only solution and that if BJP-NCP had the numbers then there was no reason “to shy away from a floor test”.

The BJP-NCP counsel also dismissed all allegations on the governor as “unfounded” and argued that the governor is immune to judicial scrutiny under Article 361. They also argued that for a floor test, a Speaker needed to be elected and all of those formalities could be completed within 14 days — the time given by the governor to the government to prove its majority on the floor of the House.

Another primary contention was the attack on the very candidature of Ajit Pawar as the deputy CM as Singhvi appearing for Congress and NCP argued that out of 54 NCP MLAs, 41 had signed a resolution removing Pawar as the legislative party chief.

However, Ajit Pawar maintained in SC that all 54 MLAs had supported him and a letter to that effect was also submitted in top court.

Mehta had termed this case a family feud where one Pawar (Ajit) was against another Pawar (Sharad).

The petitioners maintained that all questions on Governor, his role, decisions, etc could be larger questions for a later date, but the immediate need was to have an urgent floor test within 24 hours.

On the question of whether the Governor’s decision is susceptible to judicial review or not, the court said Tuesday all parties to the case have to submit written submissions before the court within eight weeks.


Also read: Koshyari not first, governors accused of toeing party line and taken to courts in past too


 

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1 COMMENT

  1. Praiseworthy. It would have been even better if the vote had taken place on Monday evening. Other detailed submissions can be taken up in due course. The apex court may have noted, Solomon like, one side wanted an immediate vote, the other wanted the whole issue to be referred to a larger Constitution Bench.

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