Sparks fly in Supreme Court over Maharashtra case
The actions of Maharashtra governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari came under scrutiny in the Supreme Court on Monday during the hearing of the joint petition filed by the Nationalist Congress Party, Shiv Sena and Congress against the surprise swearing-in of the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government in Maharashtra.
Solicitor general Tushar Mehta maintained that Koshyari took the decision to invite BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis to form the government based on materials placed before him by the chief minister. Mehta said that there cannot be a roving inquiry into the actions of the governor.
“As per governor’s communication to Fadnavis, the governor acknowledges that Fadnavis has the support of 170 MLAs, including 54 NCP MLAs. Governor had no reason to disbelieve that”, Mehta told the three-judge bench of justices NV Ramana, Ashok Bhushan and Sanjiv Khanna.
However, senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for the Sena, questioned the governor’s “great hurry” in revoking President’s Rule at 5.47 am and alleged that it was done only because the Sena, NCP and Congress had announced their alliance at 7 pm the previous evening.
“What was the great hurry to revoke President’s Rule…If he waited for so long, could he not have waited for another 24 hours? What was the national emergency? The only reason it was done was because an alliance was announced at 7 pm”, Sibal said.
Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for Fadnavis, countered him by arguing that the governor’s actions are immune from judicial review. He, therefore, asked the court not to issue any direction to the governor to hold the floor test within a particular timeframe.
Rohatgi submitted that court can, at the most, request the governor to consider advancing the floor test from the 14 days given by the governor.
“If floor test is ordered by court it should not be ordered for tomorrow. It should be left to the governor. Court can request Governor to consider advancing the floor test”, he said.
Speaking on governor ‘s immunity, Senior Advocate Raju Ramachandran told HT. “If it appears that there is a total lack of application of mind by the Governor, then his actions might not get immunity from judicial review. The court has not adopted a completely hands-off approach. They asked for letter obviously in order to see whether the Governor had material to form a prima facie satisfaction.”
The political drama began early on Saturday when Fadnavis and Ajit Pawar were sworn in by Koshyari in a muted ceremony at Raj Bhavan. This came after Ajit Pawar, who was the NCP legislature party chief until removed on Saturday evening, presented the governor with a letter pledging the support of the party’s 54 MLAs to the BJP-led dispensation. Later that daythe Sena, NCP and Congress approached the apex court.
The governor repealed President’s Rule, which had been invoked on November 12 after no party was able to cobble together a majority within the prescribed deadline, with an order issued at 5.47am on Saturday.
This came hours after the Sena, NCP and Congress appeared set to stake claim to power and announced their coalition on Friday. In the 288-member assembly, the BJP is the single-largest party with 105 members; the Sena has 56, the NCP 54 and the Congress 44. Independents and smaller parties have 29 seats. It continues to remain unclear exactly how many NCP lawmakers have sided with Ajit Pawar, though the NCP has claimed that a number of legislators have returned to the party fold.
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