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Supreme Court asks the Maharashtra Assembly Speaker to keep the disqualification proceedings of MLAs in abeyance

Print edition : Aug 25, 2022 T+T-

Supreme Court asks the Maharashtra Assembly Speaker to keep the disqualification proceedings of MLAs in abeyance

Uddhav Thackeray during a press conference at Shiv Sena Bhavan, in Mumbai.

Uddhav Thackeray during a press conference at Shiv Sena Bhavan, in Mumbai. | Photo Credit: The Hindu Archives

July 11 brought more problems for the already beleaguered Uddhav Thackeray faction of the Shiv Sena. The Supreme Court responded to a petition regarding disqualification notices that both the Sena factions had issued against members of the other faction. The court asked the Speaker of the Assembly to keep in abeyance the disqualification proceedings that had been initiated against the MLAs. According to reports, when senior advocate Kapil Sibal, who is appearing for the Thackeray faction, asked for an urgent mentioning, the Chief Justice told the Solicitor General to convey to the Speaker to defer the disqualification proceedings and that a bench had to be constituted to hear the matter.

Responding to the news, Atul Londhe, spokesperson of the Congress, said: “Though the Supreme Court today passed the decision on the Shiv Sena MLAs’ disqualification petition, the court’s decision may go against the government after considering the legal issues. Basically, the BJP-led government in the State is unconstitutional and all the decisions taken so far regarding the formation of this government are also unconstitutional…. the BJP has declared an undeclared state of emergency in the country and democracy is under threat.”

Meanwhile, developments in Mumbai further weakened Thackeray. The former Chief Minister had called for a meeting of his Members of Parliament, but, in a serious setback for his faction, seven of the 19 MPs did not attend the meeting. Apart from the depleted strength of MPs, there are just14 MLAs who have remained with Thackeray while 39 Sena MLAs have joined the Shinde faction.

One other bizarre development on July 11 was a notice sent to Vivek Phansalkar, Commissioner of Police, Mumbai, by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights. The letter asked for “urgent legal action against Shri Aditya Thackeray. President of Yuva Sena & President of Mumbai District Football Association for using minor children as child labour & political campaign for so called ‘Save Aarey Protest’.”

The letter goes on to say that the commission “received a complaint from Shri Dhrutiman Joshi, Legal Head, Sahyadri Rights”, who allegedly saw children holding placards as part of the Save Aarey protest in a Twitter post. The commission asked for an FIR to be registered against Aaditya Thackeray: “An Action Taken Report along with copy of FIR and statement of children may be shared with the Commission within 03 days of receipt of this letter.”

Aarey is a forest area within Mumbai limits. The Sena-BJP government had approved the construction of a car shed for the Mumbai Metro project within Aarey. The Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) had withdrawn the approval and given the project an alternative location. One of the first decisions of the present BJP-rebel Sena government was to overturn this decision. Aaditya Thackeray was in favour of the conservation efforts in Aarey.

While the new government seems entrenched for the moment, there are a number of petitions pending in the Supreme Court that sprang out of the political crisis in Maharashtra. One of them has asked that the deputy Speaker be restrained from taking action in the disqualification process until the resolution for his removal is decided. Another is by Sena Chief Whip Sunil Prabhu, who has challenged Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari’s directive to the Uddhav Thackeray to prove the MVA government’s majority. This ultimately led to Thackeray’s resignation. Yet another petition, also by Prabhu, questions the new Speaker’s decision to recognise the whip nominated by the Eknath Shinde faction. The last petition, filed by Subhash Desai, the Thackeray faction’s general secretary, has challenged the Governor’s decision to invite Shinde to be the Chief Minister. Desai has called the two-day meeting of the Assembly on July 3 and 4 “illegal”.