NEW DELHI, June 27: Amidst continuing political turmoil in Maharashtra, the Supreme Court on Monday provided a major relief to the dissidents extending the time limit for replying to the show cause notices for disqualification, which was due to expire Monday evening, till July 12.
The SC has also fixed the next hearing on the petitions by the rebel leader Eknath Shinde and 15 other rebel MLAs challenging the disqualification move by the deputy speaker on July 11.
Earlier, taking action against the rebels, Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray rejigged the State Cabinet sacking the nine rebel ministers and handed their portfolios and Departments to Ministers still with the Thackeray camp.
The Shiv Sena chief spokesman Sanjay Raut accused the BJP-led centre of political interference as the Enforcement Directorate summoned him in a money laundering case connected with HDIL promoters Rakesh and Sarang Wadhawan.
The Supreme Court issued notices to Maharashtra Deputy Speaker Narhari Zirwal, Chief Whip Sunil Prabhu, leader of Legislature party Anil Chaudhary and the Centre today as the tussle for the control of Shiv Sena reached the top court.
Just as the apex court extended the deadline for reply to the notices for disqualification acting on Eknath Shinde’s petition, the rebel leader tweeted, “This is the victory of the Hindutva emperor Balasaheb Thackeray’s Hindutva and the thoughts of Dharmaveer Anand Dighe Saheb ..!”
During the hearing, the Supreme Court asked the rebels’ lawyer why they did not approach the Bombay High Court first. To this, advocate NK Kaul replied that the rebels’ houses and properties are being threatened, and the situation is not conducive for them to pursue their rights in Bombay.
The Uddhav Thackeray faction contended that that there should be no trust vote till the pending issues, apparently meaning disqualification proceedings, are decided and they should be free to approach the court if the rebels seek a floor test. “Let us not create confusion on something for which there is no foundation today,” responded the court.
In a separate plea filed in the Supreme Court on Monday, Shinde claimed a “serious threat” to the lives of the MLAs of his faction. The Maharashtra government told the court that immediate steps would be taken to provide adequate security to the MLAs who have been served disqualification notices.
The petition filed by Eknath Shinde also said the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) alliance in Maharashtra has lost the majority in the house as 38 of 55 Shiv Sena legislators have withdrawn their support to the coalition.
Sanjay Raut was on Monday served summons by the Enforcement Directorate. Raut responded with the charge that “this is a conspiracy to stop me.” Earlier in the day, the Shiv Sena MP had said his party was ready for both the “street fight and a legal battle.”
According to media reports, Shinde, leading the rebellion against Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, spoke to Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray twice and discussed the “recent political situation” in the state. Shinde’s supporters have organised a show of strength in Thane.
A group of citizens meanwhile filed a public interest litigation in the Bombay High Court against Shinde and other rebel Shiv Sena MLAs accusing them of causing “political turmoil.” It urged the high court to direct the rebel leaders to return to the state and resume their duties.
In the apex court, a vacation bench of Justice Surya Kant and Justice J B Pardiwala that issued the notice on two petitions — one by dissident leader Eknath Shinde and the other by 15 dissident MLAs who had been served disqualification notices — fixed July 11 to hear the matter again. “In the meanwhile, as an interim measure, the time granted by Deputy Speaker to petitioners or other similarly placed MLAs to submit their written submissions today by 5.30 PM be extended till July 12, 2022, 5.30 PM,” the bench also directed.
Taking note of the rebel MLAs’ plea that their life and property were under threat following the rebellion, the court also recorded the statement of the standing counsel for Maharashtra that “adequate steps have already been taken and the state government shall further ensure that no harm is caused to the life, liberty and property of the 39 MLAs or their family members.” The court directed that a counter affidavit be filed by the respondents within five days and that the MLAs could file rejoinder affidavits, if any, within the next three days.
The Deputy Speaker contended that the notice challenging the powers of the deputy speaker was sent from an unregistered email and as such was not taken on record as its genuineness was in doubt. The court then wondered what steps had been taken to check its genuineness and directed that whatever steps were taken be explained in an affidavit.
Senior advocates A M Singhvi and Devdutt Kamat appearing for the Deputy Speaker and other respondents opposed the prayer for interim orders saying disqualifications proceedings by Speaker/Deputy Speaker were proceedings of the House and hence courts can’t intervene.
But the bench referred to an SC ruling which said a judicial review is not barred. Appearing for the rebel MLAs, senior advocate Neeraj Kishan referred to the SC ruling which said that the Speaker of an Assembly cannot decide on disqualification of MLAs while a motion for removal of the Speaker is pending.
Meanwhile, the supporters of rebel Maharashtra minister Rajendra Patil-Yadravkar, who is camping with the Eknath Shinde-led group in Guwahati, and some Shiv Sena workers came face to face with each other in Kolhapur district on Monday. However, police intervened and tried to keep the two groups away from each other to avoid a clash, a senior police official said.
The Maharashtra Congress has demanded that the governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari call a session of the Legislative Assembly at the earliest to prove majority and end the political turmoil.
Clarifying his alleged controversial statement that 40 bodies will come from Assam and will be sent directly to the morgue for post-mortem in a reference to the rebel MLAs, Sena spokesman Raut said he was speaking about the “dead conscience” of the legislators and that they are “living corpses” now.
“I have not done anything to hurt anyone’s feelings. I have only stated the fact that your (rebel MLAs) conscience is dead and you are a living corpse,” Raut told reporters.
He said his party was ready for a “street fight and a legal battle”, ahead of the crucial hearing in the Supreme Court against the disqualification notice issued by the Maharashtra Assembly’s deputy speaker to rebel party MLAs. “This is a legal fight and a street fight. It will take place and the party is ready for it,” Raut said.
But the Shinde camp in a fresh attack on the party’s official leadership wondered how could Bal Thackeray’s party support the people having a direct connection with Dawood Ibrahim who was responsible for killing innocent Mumbaikars by triggering bomb blasts.
Shinde said the banner of revolt was raised by him and other MLAs to protest against such support and he doesn’t care for his life in the bid to save Bal Thackeray’s Shiv Sena. Shinde’s tweets on Sunday night are an apparent reference to Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) minister Nawab Malik who is in jail in connection with a money laundering case allegedly involving relatives of Dawood Ibrahim.
The tweets are also seen as a reply to Raut who had termed Shinde and other rebel MLAs “bodies without souls” which will be sent to the morgue. “How can Hinduhridaysamrat Balasaheb Thackeray’s Shiv Sena support those who have a direct connection with Dawood who killed innocent Mumbaikars by carrying out Mumbai bomb blasts? We are taking this step to oppose this; Don’t care if this step leads us to the brink of death,” Shinde tweeted in Marathi.
In another tweet, the senior Shiv Sena leader said they will consider themselves fortunate if they die while saving Shiv Sena and the ideology of Bal Thackeray. Shinde had tagged his tweets to Raut’s Twitter handle.