SC gives speaker 15 days more for NCP disqualification ruling | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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SC gives speaker 15 days more for NCP disqualification ruling

Jan 30, 2024 04:20 AM IST

A bench, headed by Chief Justice of India Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud, granted more time to Narwekar to deliver the verdict in the matter

New Delhi The Supreme Court on Monday extended by 15 days the January 31 deadline set by it for the Maharashtra assembly speaker Rahul Narwekar to decide on a bunch of disqualification petitions linked to the split in the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) that resulted in a a new party, and deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar, being added to the ruling coalition in Maharashtra last year.

Solicitor general Tushar Mehta, appearing for the speaker, pointed out that Narwekar has remained predominantly occupied with the disqualification proceedings linked to the vertical split in the Shiv Sena (ANI)
Solicitor general Tushar Mehta, appearing for the speaker, pointed out that Narwekar has remained predominantly occupied with the disqualification proceedings linked to the vertical split in the Shiv Sena (ANI)

A bench, headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud, granted more time to Narwekar to deliver the verdict in the matter after recording his statement that the hearing process will conclude on January 31 and that the additional time was being requested to prepare the judgment.

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Solicitor general (SG) Tushar Mehta, appearing for the speaker, pointed out that Narwekar has remained predominantly occupied with the disqualification proceedings linked to the vertical split in the Shiv Sena, which was decided earlier this month.

READ | Speaker issues schedule for hearing disqualification of NCP MLAs

“The cross-examination of evidence will be over on January 30 and the final hearing will also conclude on January 31. We are asking for three weeks to dictate judgments. This is a realistic time we are asking for,” Mehta submitted before the bench, which also included justices JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra.

Opposing the extension by three weeks, senior counsel Abhishek Manu Singhvi, representing Sharad Pawar loyalist Jayant Patil, said that an additional time of one week should be enough for Narwekar to write the judgment.

At this, the bench said that it would grant the speaker time till February 15 to deliver his verdict in the batch of disqualification petitions filed by the Sharad Pawar camp against 40 MLAs and 5 MLCs. for anti-party activities after Ajit Pawar split the party and joined the coalition government in the state as deputy chief minister.

Following a split in Shiv Sena in May 2022 that brought down the then Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government and saw Eknath Shinde taking over as the new chief minister of the state, NCP suffered a similar fate in July 2023, prompting NCP MLA Patil to move the top court seeking a directive to Narwekar for a timebound disposal of the disqualification petitions filed against Ajit Pawar and the MLAs backing him. Patil’s petition was filed in September, lamenting that Narwekar had been sitting over the disqualification petitions for the last three months.

The Sharad Pawar camp filed three petitions for disqualification of rebel MLAs. The first petition was filed against nine MLAs, including Ajit Pawar; the second petition was against 20 MLAs; and the third against 11 MLAs.

The Ajit Pawar camp has also filed disqualification petitions against 10 NCP MLAs and three MLCs. It has also filed a petition before the Election Commission of India, seeking permission to use the party’s name and election symbol. The verdict in the case is expected to come soon.

Emphasising that sanctity of the anti-defection law must be maintained, the apex court on October 30 set deadlines on the two politically sensitive cases -- the Sena split by December 31 and the NCP fissures by January 31 – entailing that the issue will be decided well in time for the general elections next summer, and state polls expected in October 2024.

Following an extension of the deadline till January 10, Narwekar dismissed the disqualification petitions filed by the Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray (UBT) group against Shinde and the MLAs that supported him during the rebellion in 2022 and holding the chief minister’s faction to be the “real Shiv Sena”.

The UBT group later challenged the speaker’s decision before the Supreme Court, which issued notice on the petition last week and sought responses from Shinde and 38 other Shiv Sena legislators of his camp.

“We must respect the decision of the Supreme Court and abide by it, but it is about time the speaker of Maharashtra assembly Rahul Narwekar takes decision on the disqualification issue,” Clyde Crasto, national spokesperson of the Sharad Pawar faction of NCP, said. “Anti-defection law and the 10th schedule have clear provisions to take a right decision. Despite that if he is delaying it further, then he is only creating doubts in the minds of people that his act appears to be politically motivated.”

Welcoming the top court’s decision, Anand Paranjpe, the spokesperson of Ajit Pawar faction, said: “Hearing on the NCP MLAs disqualification issue is going on and will conclude on January 31. Speaker will need time to write a judgement so [the] Supreme Court has given time. We respect the judgment.”

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