The Supreme Court on Thursday said that it cannot disqualify the Eknath Shinde-led Maharashtra government and rejected the plea to restore Uddhav Thackeray as chief minister because the latter had chosen to resign in place of facing a test of strength in the assembly.
A five-member Constitution bench led by the Chief Justice of India, which had been hearing a batch of petitions filed by both the groups of the Shiv Sena, pulled up the then Maharashtra governor and the then speaker for their actions.
During Hearing five-member bench says as follows:
- The bench said, “The governor had no objective material to come to a conclusion that the MVA government had lost majority in the House and his decision was illegal. The resolution relied on by the governor did not indicate that MLAs wanted to withdraw support.”
- The bench further said, “Floor Test cannot be used as a medium to settle inter and intra-party disputes.”
- It added, “The Speaker, if he 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 bench added, “There were no communications relied on by the governor indicating that the dissatisfied MLAs wanted to withdraw support to the government. The governor blundered in relying on the resolution of a faction of MLAs of Shiv Sena to conclude that Uddhav Thackeray had lost the support of the majority of MLAs.”
- The bench also said, ” The Speaker’s decision to appoint Bharat Gogawale a whip of the Eknath Shinde group was wrong. The whip has to be appointed by a political party, the court observed. The Supreme Court referred its 2016 judgment in the Nabam Rebia case to a larger bench for judgment in the case of the defection of 16 MLAs in June 2022 from the then Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena.”
- It stated that the status quo cannot be restored as Uddhav Thackeray did not face the Floor Test and tendered his resignation. Hence, the Governor was justified in administering the oath to Eknath Shinde with the support of the largest party BJP.
- “The governor was justified in inviting Shinde to form the government at the request of the BJP which was the largest political party in the house,” the court said.
After the verdict, Uddhav Thackeray spoke to the media that people who had left his party had no right to ask him questions and if Eknath Shinde has any ethics he should submit his resignation. The Thackeray faction had sought disqualification of the MLAs under the anti-defection law of the country.
The judgment was delivered by a five-judge bench of Chief Justice DY Chandrachud and Justices MR Shah, Justice Krishna Murari, Justice Hima Kohli, and PS 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.
Meanwhile, the top court decided to refer to a larger bench the 2016 Nabam Rebia case which held that speaker cannot pledge disqualification proceedings when a resolution seeking his elimination is pending.