Order Devendra Fadnavis to face floor test in 24 hrs, Cong to SC; decision tomorrow
The Supreme Court on Monday said it will tomorrow pass order on a petition filed by a coalition of Shiv Sena, Nationalist Congress Party and the Congress that sought orders to the Devendra Fadnavis-led Maharashtra government to quickly face the floor test.
“If they (Fadnavis government) have the majority, why should they fear the floor test,” said senior lawyer Abhishek Singhvi who appeared for the coalition of Shiv Sena, Nationalist Congress Party and the Congress.
A three-judge bench comprising justices NV Ramana, Ashok Bhushan and Sanjiv Khanna had heard the Governor’s office explain that Fadnavis was invited only after he produced letters of support from 11 independent MLAs and Ajit Pawar of the NCP which has 54 MLAs. The governor, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said, could not be carrying out a fishing or roving inquiry to ascertain if the claim was accurate or not and had no reason to disbelieve Fadnavis or Pawar.
Ajit Pawar, whose letter of support with signatures of 54 lawmakers was at the crux of this case, insisted that he was well within his powers to take the call that he did.
“I am NCP. As leader of the legislature party, I am entitled to take call on these issues,” Ajit Pawar’s lawyer Maninder Singh, told the bench.
Ajit Pawar’s party Nationalist Congress Party was in the process of giving final touches to the coalition led by Shiv Sena to stake claim last week. Fadnavis, however, stumped these efforts when he got himself an invite from governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari to form the government early Saturday morning.
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Fadnavis took oath as chief minister; NCP’s Ajit Pawar who pledged support of NCP lawmakers to the BJP was his deputy.
But NCP boss Sharad Pawar and his daughter, Supriya Sule insisted there had been a split in the party, that their party didn’t support the BJP and had Ajit Pawar removed as the NCP legislature party leader.
The three-party coalition next dashed to the Supreme Court that set up a special bench led by Justice NC Ramana and heard out lawyers for the three parties for a little less than 30 minutes on Sunday morning.
The three judges had ordered the government to produce the letter submitted by Devendra Fadnavis to stake claim and the governor’s order.
On Monday, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who appeared for the Maharashtra Governor’s secretary, submitted the letters right at the start of Monday’s hearing, and insisted that the governor had acted like any reasonable person.
Mehta said the governor had received a letter from NCP legislature party chief Ajit Pawar pledging the support of his party MLAs to Fadnavis. Plus, the BJP had also produced letters of support from 11 MLAs.
Senior lawyers Kapil Sibal and Abhishek Singhvi, who appeared for the freshly-minted coalition Maha Vikas Aghadi, have accused governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari of “bias”.
Mukul Rohatgi, who appeared for Devendra Fadnavis, told the judges that Ajit Pawar had shown him letters of support of 54 MLAs.
“One Pawar is with me. The other Pawar has approached court. That is their family feud. I am not concerned with that,” Fadnavis’ lawyer told the bench.
Singhvi countered him, insisting that the court had the support of 48 NCP lawmakers, 56 Sena MLAs and 44 Cong MLAs. He also insisted that the letter containing signatures of all NCP lawmakers was to elect Ajit Pawar as legislative party leader, not to join the BJP alliance.
Singhvi also argued that the NCP’s letter of support to Ajit Pawar was without any covering letter and asked how the governor could ignore this detail. ”This is the murder of democracy. I have original affidavits which state they don’t support (Ajit) Pawar. I am only exposing the conspiracy here,” the senior lawyer said.
Singhvi added that both sides agreed that a floor test is needed but the dispute is over when it should be held; today, tomorrow or the end of the week. He added that there were seven verdicts by the top court in the past that had ruled in favour of an immediate floor test.