Verdict in due time but I will not succumb to pressure, says Narwekar after SC remarks
The Supreme Court has directed the assembly speaker to begin hearings on disqualification petitions against Shiv Sena MLAs next week. The speaker had been given two weeks to obtain copies of the Thackeray faction's documents before the hearings, but failed to submit a status report as ordered by the court. The delay prompted the Thackeray faction to file a petition with the Supreme Court. The court recognized the speaker as a constitutional post and emphasized that no other institution can intervene. The hearings will now proceed in a reasonable time.
Although assembly speaker Rahul Narwekar has given two weeks’ time to the Eknath Shinde-led Shiv Sena to obtain copies of the Thackeray faction’s documents before hearing the disqualification petitions of MLAs from the two Shiv Senas, he is expected to begin actual hearings as per the direction of the Supreme Court next week.
On Monday, the SC, during the hearing of a petition filed by the Thackeray faction on the delay in the hearing, came down hard on the speaker. During the last hearing in July, Narwekar had been asked by the apex court to submit the status report in two weeks. The state legislature however, did not submit any report, as a section of state legislature officials was of the opinion that court orders were not binding on it. Rather, it decided to apprise the apex court about the status during the next hearing.
“Although Narwekar did keep announcing that he would begin the hearing in the disqualification petitions after the Thackeray faction MLAs submitted their reply in the third week of July, the actual hearing started just days before the SC hearing on the Thackeray faction’s petition on the delay,” said an official from the state legislature. “The first hearing ended with Narwekar admitting the contention by the Shinde faction MLAs that they had not received copies of the Thackeray faction’s replies. But, in fact, copies of all the 14 MLAs’ replies were dispatched by speed post immediately after submission in the first week of August.”
The Thackeray faction MLAs submitted their replies of 241 pages each in July. The Shinde faction MLAs submitted their replies of over 6,000 pages each in August. The first hearing was held by the speaker on September 14.
After the apex court’s directive on Monday, Narwekar said he would take a decision about the hearing once he got a copy of the order. “I have said time and again that there will be no delay in the disqualification petitions but at the same time we will not take any decision in haste,” he said. “I have not received a copy of the SC order but I have learnt that the apex court (in the hearing) recognised the assembly speaker as a constitutional post and thus there cannot be intervention by any other institution. The decision will be done in reasonable time. I will not succumb to any pressure.”
Narwekar added that the decision would be taken at the earliest by complying with all constitutional obligations. “The hearing will be completed in a reasonable time,” he said. “We are doing everything in our capacity to ensure the verdict in a reasonable time.”
Another official from the legislature said that the hearing in the disqualification petitions started just ahead of the hearing of the Supreme Court in the petition filed by the Thackeray faction over the delay. “The Shinde faction was given ample time to submit its say, and its contention that it had not received copies of the submission by the Thackeray faction was also admitted,” he said. “The legislature is expected to cite the voluminous documents submitted in 34 petitions pending before it to justify the delay in the decision.”
The 34 petitions filed by both factions of the Shiv Sena are related to the absence of MLAs for the meetings called by both factions, their failure to obey the whip served from both sides and the appointment of the assembly speaker. “The documents submitted by respondents, especially the Shinde faction, are very many and may take time for scrutiny and validation before the hearing begins,” said the officer.
BOX -- VOICES
Shiv Sena (UBT) MP Anil Desai: “We welcome the decision by the SC, as it was expected. We expected the speaker to expeditiously dispose of the disqualification proceedings but it didn’t happen. I don’t know why he was lingering. The SC was very straightforward and told him to finish in a reasonable time.”
Shiv Sena (UBT) MP Sanjay Raut: “The SC has spoken in the voice of those fighting for democracy in the country. But some people who are sitting in constitutional posts are throttling the voice of democracy. This is a rap on the knuckles of such people.”
Shiv Sena spokesperson Manisha Kayande: “We are told that the Shiv Sena (UBT) is delaying submission of papers. This is also delaying the case but they are shifting the blame to the speaker.”