Could have reinstated Uddhav Thackeray had not he resigned as chief minister: SC | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Could have reinstated Uddhav Thackeray had not he resigned as chief minister: SC

May 11, 2023 12:52 PM IST

Thackeray’s resignation and Eknath Shinde’s dramatic take over as the Maharashtra chief minister within 24 hours last year triggered a spate of petitions

The Supreme Court could have reinstated Uddhav Thackeray had he refrained from resigning as the Maharashtra chief minister last year following Eknath Shinde-led Shiv Sena lawmakers’ rebellion, a constitution bench said on Thursday.

The Supreme Court. (ANI)
The Supreme Court. (ANI)

The five-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud said the court cannot quash a resignation. It added status quo ante cannot be given since Thackeray resigned.

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Shinde took over as the chief minister of Maharashtra with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s support after his rebellion prompted Thackeray to resign before a floor test.

The bench said the governor erred in concluding that Thackeray had lost the majority in the House after the rebellion. It added the governor had no objective materials to call for a floor test. “Floor test cannot be used as a medium to resolve inter or intra-party disputes.”

The bench said deputy chief minister and BJP leader Devendra Fadanvis and independent MLAs also did not move a no-confidence motion. “Governor’s exercise of discretion was not in accordance with the law.”

The CJI, who delivered the judgment on behalf of the bench which also comprised justices MR Shah, Krishna Murari, Hima Kohli, and PS Narasimha, said the appointment of Shinde camp’s Bharat Gogawale as the new whip of Shiv Sena was illegal. “Speaker shall recognise the new whip again after an inquiry.”

The bench added the speaker will determine which is the real Shiv Sena and then decide on disqualification petitions of the rebels. It said the disqualification petitions before the speaker cannot be linked with proceedings before the Election Commission of India.

The bench said the whip is appointed by a political party and not a legislative party while rejecting Shinde’s contention on this count. “Courts can go into the speaker’s decision to appoint a party whip.”

The Supreme Court also held that the 2016 Nebam Rabia decision, which held the speaker cannot decide a disqualification petition when his own removal has been sought, by a five-judge bench requires reference to a larger bench.

In its order of reference, a three-judge bench doubted the correctness of a 2016 judgment by another five-judge bench in the Nebam Rabia (Arunachal Pradesh disqualification) case in holding that the Speaker cannot initiate disqualification proceedings when his own removal is sought.

The Maharashtra legal battle in the Supreme Court commenced on June 27 last year when the court restrained the then deputy speaker of the Maharashtra assembly – a Thackeray loyalist -- from disqualifying a group of rebel Shinde-led Shiv Sena legislators.

Two days later, it refused to stay the governor’s direction to the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi government of the Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress alliance to face the floor test, and within hours, Thackeray resigned.

Thackeray’s resignation and Shinde’s dramatic take over as the chief minister within 24 hours triggered a spate of petitions by the former’s faction. They challenged the election of the new Speaker, a new whip of the Shinde-led Shiv Sena, disqualification proceedings initiated against his own MLAs, and the validity of the floor test that witnessed Shinde sailing by with the support of the BJP.

In August 2022, the Supreme Court referred the adjudication of legal issues arising out of the split in Shiv Sena to constitution bench of five judges, noting that the matter “raises important issues” involving the contours of disqualification proceedings and the powers of the governor and the speaker in their respective spheres.

The three-judge bench had at that time held that the spectrum of legal questions emanating from the tussle between the factions belonging to Shinde and Thackeray requires to be dealt with by a larger bench for an authoritative pronouncement.

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