Can anyone but a Thackeray head the party, asks Jethmalani
Shiv Sena witness Sunil Prabhu was grilled on his entitlement to vote in 2013 and an email he sent to Eknath Shinde, defying party orders. The cross-examination also questioned the validity of Uddhav Thackeray as party chief and the disqualification of defected MLAs. The hearing in the ongoing Sena vs Sena battle continues.
Prabhu grilled on his entitlement to vote in 2013 and the email to Shinde for defying party order
Thursday’s cross-examination of the Shiv Sena (UBT) witness, Sunil Prabhu, drew from Tuesday’s proceedings on the “validity” of Uddhav Thackeray as party chief, office bearers, the disqualification of the defected MLAs and voting by the members of executive body among others, on the basis that the party’s constitution had no provision for it.
The sixth day’s hearing in the Sena vs Sena battle, chief minister Eknath Shinde-led Sena counsel Mahesh Jethmalani, also said that the Shiv Sena-led by Thackeray had not informed the election commission (EC) about the appointment of party chief. It additionally questioned party’s chief whip, Prabhu, if anybody outside the Thackeray family could head the party, and underlined that Prabhu’s claim that he had voted in the election in 2013 was a lie. (See box.)
Subsequently, Jethmalani turned to the speaker, Rahul Narwekar, and spoke about Prabhu’s U-turn on Wednesday regarding his statement related to the email sent to Eknath Shinde, warning him of action for defying the party order. Prabhu had stated that the letter was sent on Shinde’s WhatsApp, for not attending the urgent meeting on June 22, 2022. Hours later, he had rectified his reply to say it was dispatched to Shinde from the party’s official email account.
Jethmalani argued that the email address on which the letter was claimed to have been seen never belonged to Shinde. He said that though Prabhu has said it was sent on June 22, the mail was actually sent on June 23. Prabhu’s response was that the party secretary was asked to send the mail on June 22, which he may have sent the next day.
After the hearing, Prabhu’s colleague, Anil Desai said he was entitled to vote in the party election in 2013 as he was “sampark pramukh of the party from Beed”. He also challenged Jethmalani’s claim on the letter to Shinde, saying, “The letter to Shinde was a rejoinder after he failed to attend the party meeting on June 22. It does not matter whether it was sent on June 22 or 23.”
The counsel representing the Shinde faction complained that the mail address on which the mail was sent never existed and the trial mail sent on it by them had bounced back. He has filed an application with the speaker seeking an inquiry into the alleged forged and fabricated email produced by Prabhu. The copy of the email was produced during the hearing the previous day.
What constitutes an anti-party move?
Jethmalani: Have you read the party’s constitution of 1999?
Prabhu: I am aware of the constitution but not fully conversant.
Jethmalani: Have you read the constitution of your party available with ECI?
Jethmalani: What is anti-party activity as per the party constitution or any other document related to it?
(Jethmalani posed the question in reference to the discrepancies in the Shiv Sena constitutions of 1999 and the one reportedly amended a few years ago.)
Prabhu: It is on record.
Jethmalani: Your petition says the act of MLAs (who defected) was delinquent. When was it decided?
Prabhu: I do not remember.
Jethmalani: Was any show cause notice issued to the delinquent MLAs?
Prabhu: I do not remember to have read such a notice.
Jethmalani: Were the MLAs given a hearing?
Prabhu: I don’t not remember of any such notice.
Jethmalani: If you think the MLAs had given up their membership for their act (of defection) between June 21 and 30, why was it necessary to remove them from their organisational post on July 1?
Prabhu: It was imperative in the wake of their anti-party activity.
Jethmalani: Mr Prabhu, according to you can any member of Sena, other than a member of the Thackeray family, attain the alleged post of paksha pramukh (party chief). Can a worthy leader like you become chief of the party?
(Rohit Sharma, counsel appearing for the Thackeray faction raises objection saying the question was of no relevance. Jethmalani then rephrases the question with similar intent.)
Prabhu: Yes, according to the constitution.
Jethmalani: Is there any procedure in the constitution for taking a decision related to the disqualification petitions under Schedule 10?
Prabhu: It is on record.
Jethmalani: The constitution of the party does not have any procedure to file disqualification petitions.
Prabhu: Yes, it is correct.
Jethmalani: Does disagreeing with party chief Uddhav Thackeray qualify as anti-party activity?
Jethmalani: Did you vote in the party election in January 2013?
Jethmalani: It is not true, because the election did not take place in first place and the candidates were elected unopposed. Secondly, you were not part of the executive body that votes.
Prabhu: I was either mayor or ex-mayor of Mumbai at that time. I voted.
Jethmalani: The organisational elections were never held in Shiv Sena between 2018 and 2023.
Prabhu: Not true.
Jethmalani: The alleged election of Uddhav Thackeray as party chief held on January 23, 2018, was invalid as the constitution does not have any such provision.
(In the affidavit submitted in the SC, the Thackeray faction has stated that Uddhav Thackeray was elected party chief by the executive body of the party in January 2018. It was attended by Eknath Shinde, who was elected leader of the party in the same meeting.)