Rebel Shiv Sena leader Eknath Shinde plays chess at a hotel where he is staying with supporting MLAs, in Guwahati. (PTI)
New Delhi: Giving major relief to the 39 rebel Shiv Sena MLAs threatened with disqualification, the Supreme Court on Monday extended till July 11 the time to reply to the notices for disqualification issued to them by deputy speaker of Maharashtra Assembly Narhari Zirwal, to which they were asked to respond by 5.30 pm on Monday, and directed the Maharashtra government to ensure the protection of life and property of the rebel MLAs and their families.
Virtually putting in abeyance the disqualification proceedings initiated by the deputy speaker, who had issued the notice on June 25, a vacation bench of Justices Surya Kant and J.B. Pardiwala sought the response of the deputy speaker and others on the petitions filed by rebel leader Eknath Shinde and others separately.
The court gave five days’ time to the deputy speaker and others to file their reply and five days to the petitioner rebel MLAs to file their rejoinder as the apex court posted the matter for further consideration on July 12. The court said that all the responses should be put on record through affidavits.
In an observation that indicated that the going was not smooth for the deputy speaker and that the court felt that he acted in an undue haste in initiating disqualification proceedings against the rebel Shiv Sena MLAs, Justice Surya Kant said: "At time times, undue haste gives unavoidable inferences."
In an attempt to forestall any move that may see the Uddhav Thackeray government being ousted in a floor test forced by the rebel MLAs along with the BJP, senior lawyer Devdutt Kamat urged the court to embargo any such possibility of the convening of an Assembly session, but Justice Surya Kant said: "We can’t pass orders on presumptions and apprehensions. Let us not create a situation for which there is no foundation today."
As senior lawyers Abhishek "Manu" Singhvi, Rajeev Dhavan and Devdutt Kamat sought to impress upon the court not to pass any interim order to stop the deputy Speaker from going ahead with the disqualification proceedings and referred to different judgments of the apex court, including the authoritative text Parliamentary Practices and Procedures by Kaul and Shakdher, Justice Surya Kant said they did not want these petitions to become infructuous with the deputy speaker going ahead with the proceedings.
As the lawyers for the deputy speaker and others argued that the courts have consistently refrained from interfering in the proceedings initiated by the Speaker/deputy speaker till the final orders, Justice Surya Kant said that in none of the cases cited before the court there was a no-trust motion initiated against the Speaker/deputy speaker.
Senior lawyer Neeraj Kishan Kaul, appearing for Mr Shinde and other rebel MLAs, urged the court to stay the disqualification notice, saying that they were subsequent to the no-trust notice given by the rebel MLAs against the deputy speaker on June 21. He cited a 2016 ruling of the apex court relating to a power play in Arunachal Pradesh, also known as the Nebam Rabia judgment, in his support, saying once a non-trust motion is pending against the Speaker, he cannot take up any other proceedings without placing the no-trust motion before the Assembly.
He said the deputy speaker’s action in issuing notice and initiating disqualification proceedings was contrary to the substantive law laid down by the top court in the 2016 Constitution Bench judgment and in breach of the principles of natural justice.
However, this was contested by Mr Singhvi, who said the 2016 ruling in the Nebam Rabia case has no applicability in the Maharashtra imbroglio.