Amid the political crisis in Maharashtra triggered by a rebellion by a large section of Shiv Sena MLAs, who are currently camping in Assam, Maharashtra Minister Eknath Shinde has approached the Supreme Court against the disqualification notices issued by the Deputy Speaker against rebel MLAs.
The plea also challenges the appointment of Ajay Chaudhary as the Shiv Sena's legislative leader in the House in place of Shinde. The petitioner, Shinde has sought to issue direction to Deputy Speaker to not take any action in the disqualification petition under Rule 6 of MLA Defection Rules seeking disqualification of the rebel MLAs and also not to take any action on the same until the resolution for removal of the Deputy Speaker is decided. The petition also sought direction to hold and declare that the letter/order dated June 21 passed by the Respondent Deputy Speaker accepting the appointment of Respondent Ajay Choudhary, as Leader of Shiv Sena Legislature Party is illegal and unconstitutional. It also sought an appropriate direction to stay the effect and operation of the letter/order dated June 21 passed by the Deputy Speaker recognising the appointment of Respondent, Ajay Choudhary as Leader of Shiv Sena Legislature Party.
The plea also sought direction from concerned authorities to provide security to the family of the Petitioner and all his supporters within the Shiv Sena Legislature Party (SSLP). In the petition, Shinde termed the action against him and others as arbitrary and illegal exercise of provisions of Schedule X of the Constitution of India read with Maharashtra Legislative Assembly (Disqualification on ground of Defection) Rules, 1986 (MLA Defection Rules) and said that it is completely violative of Article 14 and 19(1)(g) of the Constitution of India as well as the illegal and unconstitutional action of the Deputy Speaker insofar as recognizing Ajay Choudhury as the leader of the Shiv Sena Legislature Party (SSLP) despite the said request being admittedly made by a minority faction of the SSLP.
The petitioner also challenged the disqualification proceedings initiated against him at the instance of Respondent Sunil Prabhu and said that he had no authority to issue any whip having been removed as the Chief Whip of the Shiv Sena Legislature Party and the consequent issuance of summons dated June 25 issued by the Deputy Speaker without verifying the matter. The Deputy Speaker, who is in charge of the House in the absence of the Speaker and has issued the notice dated June 25, 2022, in the disqualification petition against the petitioner. Shinde said he is aggrieved by the notice/summon dated July 25, 2022, as the same is grossly illegal, unconstitutional and in utter disregard of the judgment of the top court. The petition also sought an interim stay on the operation of the notice dated June 25, 2022, issued to the petitioner by the Deputy Speaker.
"Respondent Sunil Prabhu, who is a Member of the Legislative Assembly from the Dindoshi constituency of the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly, has filed the plea before the Deputy Speaker under Rule 6 of MLA Defection Rules seeking disqualification of the Petitioners Shinde under Para-2(1)(a) of the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution of India. He is also the illegally appointed Chief Whip of the party," read the plea. Shinde, who a member of the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly from Kopri-Pachpakhadi constituency of Thane, said that the present petition has been necessitated in view of the complete breakdown of the government machinery and the ongoing political instability in the state of Maharashtra where constant threats are being given to the members of the SSLP as well.
"It is submitted that the Respondent No. 5 (Prabhu) has filed malicious and prime facie not maintainable, Petition under Schedule X read with Rule 6 of MLA Defection Rules seeking disqualification of the Petitioners under Para-2(1)(a) of the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution of India despite the fact that the Petitioner enjoys 2/3rd support of the members of SSPL. Further, Respondent number 5 has already been removed as the Chief Whip vide a resolution dated June 21, 2022, passed by a majority of the members of SSPL (as well as a subsequent affirmation by way of affidavits), " read the plea.
"Pertinently, on 21st of June, 2022, the majority members of the Shiv Sena Legislature Party held a meeting and passed a resolution appointing Mr. Bharat Gogavale as the Chief Whip of the Shiv Sena Legislature Party and also reaffirmed the Petitioner herein as the 'Gatneta'/Leader of the Shiv Sena Legislature Party," the petition said. The Petitioner submitted that the whip contemplated under Paragraph 2 of the Tenth Schedule is for a vote on the floor of the House and no whip could have been issued for a meeting admittedly held outside the House. He also said that a meeting of the party no concerned with business or vote on the Floor of the House cannot be converted into a weapon to disqualify duly elected members under the garb of the Tenth Schedule.
One more petition has been filed by Bharat Gogawale and other rebel MLAs who also claimed that they are aggrieved by summons dated June 25, 2022, initiating disqualification proceedings as the same are grossly illegal and unconstitutional. Gogawale, in his petition, said that the petitioners along with other members of the Shiv Sena Party of the MVA government sensed that the principles of the Shiv Sena, which is a Hindu Marathi Regional Political Party is being compromised due to an unruly coalition of political parties in which MLAs of Shiv Sena were suffering the most.
"During the time period of the last two and half years, the party and its leadership have compromised party principles with different ideologies that of INC and NCP. The ideology of Late Balasaheb Thackray was to give a clean and honest government to the people of Maharashtra, without compromising on the principle of national interest, the rebel MLAs said. Meanwhile, two MLAs, on June 26, called for the removal of the Maharashtra Deputy Speaker, who could be the key decision-maker about the disqualification of the rebel MLAs. Mahesh Baldi and Vinod Agarwal, both independent MLAs and said to be close to the BJP, have moved for the removal of Deputy Speaker Narhari Zirwal, who is from Sharad Pawar's Nationalist Congress Party (NCP).
Eknath Shinde has called the appointment illegal as Chaudhary's name was proposed by the "minority faction" as he represents the "real Sena". Shinde, who has been replaced by Ajay Chaudhary as Shiv Sena's legislature party leader on Friday, is currently camping with over 40 rebel MLAs in Guwahati.