Maha crisis: Some issues require a larger constitutional bench, says SC

During the hearing, the bench noted whether a minority within a legislature party can disqualify the majority is one of the issues, which will require a decision.

New Delhi:¬†Eknath Shinde’s counsel on Wednesday submitted before the Supreme Court, “Are we in such a hopeless situation that a man who cannot even find 20 MLAs to support him has to be brought back to power by the courts?”

After hearing detailed arguments, the Supreme Court said many constitutional questions arise in a clutch of petitions raising issues in connection with Maharashtra political scenario and added that the matter may be referred to a larger bench for consideration.

A three-judge headed by Chief Justice N V Ramana and comprising justices Krishan Murari and Hima Kohli asked the legislative secretary of Maharashtra to keep the records safe and the parties, involved in the Maharashtra matter, to frame issues that they were likely to raise before the court and sought their replies.

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The bench observed that some issues involved in the Maharashtra political crisis may need to be referred to a larger constitutional bench for consideration.

The top court fixed the matter for further hearing on August 1. The top court also asked the Maharashtra Speaker not to deal with disqualification petitions till further orders.

Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, representing the Thackeray camp, submitted that democracy is in danger if the government in any state can be toppled despite the bar under the Tenth Schedule and added the only protection is for merger under para 4 of the Tenth Schedule.

He said 40 members of Shiv Sena, by their conduct, are deemed to have incurred disqualification by giving up party membership as per para 2 of Tenth Schedule. Uddhav camp urged the court to summon the Legislative Assembly records.

The Chief Justice said: “I strongly feel some of these issues may require a larger bench”.

Senior advocate Harish Salve, representing the Eknath Shinde group, said inner party democracy has been throttled by disqualification proceedings and if a large number of people in a party feels that another man should lead, what is wrong in that.

Salve said, “Are we in such a hopeless situation that a man who cannot even find 20 MLAs to support him has to be brought back to power by the courts?”

During the hearing, the bench noted whether a minority within a legislature party can disqualify the majority is one of the issues, which will require a decision. The top court has sought a response from Shinde by July 29.

On July 11, the top court granted interim relief to the Uddhav Thackeray camp MLAs by asking Maharashtra Assembly Speaker Rahul Narwekar not to proceed with the plea seeking their disqualification — sought by the Shinde group for defying party whip during the trust vote and the election of the Speaker.

Initially, the Shinde faction had moved the top court challenging the disqualification proceedings initiated by the then deputy speaker of the Assembly.

On June 27, a vacation bench of the top court extended the time for the rebel MLAs to file written responses to the deputy speaker’s disqualification notice till July 12.

Both sides have accused each other of defying the party whip during the Speaker’s election and the trust vote on July 3 and 4, in connection with the disqualification of legislators from both sides.

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