In Sena vs Sena Ruling, Did Speaker Contradict Top Court, Asks Chief Justice

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In Sena vs Sena Ruling, Did Speaker Contradict Top Court, Asks Chief Justice

Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and former Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray (File).

New Delhi:

The Supreme Court on Thursday questioned the Maharashtra Speaker’s ruling on the Sena vs Sena dispute – in which the faction led by Eknath Shinde was declared the “real Sena” based on its “discernible legislative majority” – and asked if the conclusion was contrary to its instructions.

A bench led by Chief Justice DY Chandrachud made the oral observation as it heard pleas from the Uddhav Thackeray-led faction (or what was the united Shiv Sena) challenging Speaker Rahul Narwekar’s decision to not disqualify the MLAs – including Mr Shinde – who had switched to the BJP.

The court ordered the Speaker’s office to submit all original records pertaining to disqualification pleas filed by Mr Thackeray’s camp, and asked Mr Shinde’s camp to file a reply by April 1.

The summoning of records was in response to forgery allegations by the Shinde faction.

The next hearing will be in the second week of the same month, the court said, adding, it will also hear then objections by the Shinde side – that this matter is worthy of being heard by the top court.

The court also said it was keeping open the issue of maintainability of the petition.

READ | Thackeray Approaches Court Over Speaker’s “Real Shiv Sena” Decision

On January 10, Rahul Narwekar ruled in favour of the Shinde faction, calling it the “real Shiv Sena” and holding, therefore, that disqualification of its MLAs could not be sought by the Thackeray faction.

READ | Eknath Shinde Faction Is “Real Sena”, Says Speaker

He said he was relying on the legislative strength of the Shinde camp; his final ruling noted it had a strength of 37 of 55 seats (won by the then united Sena in the 2019 Assembly election).

However, in May last year, the Supreme Court had said the Speaker should not base his decision on “a blind appreciation of which group possess a majority in the Legislative Assembly”. The Constitution Bench of the court said a decision on the “real Sena” was more than numbers.

An incensed Mr Thackeray had called Mr Narwekar’s decision an “insult to the Supreme Court and (a) murder of democracy”. The former Chief Minister said the Speaker made a “thief” – a jab at to Eknath Shinde – “master of the House”, and had exceeded the brief given to him by the court.

READ | “Why Were We Not Disqualified,” Thackeray Questions Speaker

“The court had given a framework but he distorted it into something else… he thinks he is above the Supreme Court. He should have made laws against party-hopping stricter but was busy clearing a path for himself,” he said, pointing out also Mr Narwekar had “changed parties many times”.

After splitting in June 2022, the factions served a clutch of disqualification notices against each other. The Thackeray faction sought the removal of as many as 40 Shinde camp MLAs, which, in turn, wanted 14 of its rivals disqualified. The Speaker, though, had dismissed all these petitions.

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