The Supreme Court on Monday said it “expects deference and dignity to its directions” and asked Maharashtra Assembly Speaker Rahul Narwekar to decide within a “time-frame” disqualification plea raised against chief minister Eknath Shinde and others by the Uddhav Thackeray faction and the counter-pleas by the rival faction.
A bench headed by Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud during a hearing on the issue gave vent to its anguish that despite the May 11 directions by a five-judge constitution bench to the Speaker to decide on the issue, no action was forthcoming to date.
“We expect deference and dignity to the directions issued by us exercising our constitutional powers. Tell us what happened after May 11. It appears nothing has happened after May 11,” the CJI told solicitor-general Tushar Mehta appearing for the Speaker.
Although Mehta tried to reason that the Speaker was a constitutional authority and had his own reasons for taking time to act on the various disqualification applications pending before it, the bench which included Justice J.B. Pardiwala and Justice Manoj Mishra directed the Speaker to commence the process of hearing the petitions within a week from Monday.
“We now direct that the procedural directions shall be issued by the Speaker within a week setting out a timeline to complete the process. The solicitor-general shall inform this court about the timeline being set for disposing off the proceedings,” the bench said while adjourning the matter for two weeks.
In total, 34 applications are pending before the Speaker after Shinde led the revolt against the then Uddhav Thackeray-led coalition government. These include the petitions filed by both the Shinde and Thackeray factions involving some 56 MLAs of either faction accusing them of being liable for disqualification under the 10th schedule of the anti-defection law.
On Monday, senior advocate Kapil Sibal appeared for Sunil Prabhu, Shiv Sena (Uddhav) faction MP, accusing the Speaker of deliberately not acting on the disqualification plea despite the apex court ruling on May 11 that he cannot indefinitely postpone the decision on disqualification.
Senior advocates Neeraj Kishan Kaul and Mahesh Jethmalani appeared for the MLAs representing the Shinde faction.
Earlier on May 11, a five-judge constitution bench of the Supreme Court had questioned then Maharashtra governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari’s decision to ask then Shiv Sena chief minister Uddhav Thackeray to prove his majority in the House after Shinde’s rebellion last year, saying he had no “objective material” to do so.