New Delhi: Despite noting that the Maharashtra governor and assembly speaker did not act as per the law, a five-judge constitution bench of the Supreme Court has said that it cannot order the restoration of the Uddhav Thackeray government as he resigned without facing a floor test following Eknath Shinde’s move to depart Shiv Sena and split the party.
The unanimous verdict by Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud and Justices M.R. Shah, Krishna Murari, Hima Kohli and P.S. Narasimha said that the Maharashtra governor’s decision to conduct a floor test to solve intra-party disputes is wrong and also that the assembly Speaker was illegal in appointing the party whip from the Eknath Shinde faction of the Shiv Sena.
“Neither the constitution nor the law empower the governor to enter the political arena and play a role either in inter-party or intra-party disputes,” the CJI said in court today, according to live tweets by LiveLaw.
The CJI also said that “nothing in any of the communications relied on by the Governor” indicated that the dissatisfied MLAs wanted to withdraw support to the government.
The Supreme Court held that the appointment of Bharatshet Gogawale, backed by Shinde’s Sena faction, as the whip of the Shiv Sena party was illegal.
The verdict has been receiving comments on social media considering the court’s acknowledgment of an illegality but refusal to let it change the outcome. Journalist Suhas Palshikar has said, “Very strictly speaking, hasn’t the SC actually said that formation of Shinde government doesn’t have legal basis? It may not have ordered removal of the government but once legality is gone, government must go too.”
In eight hearings earlier, the Supreme Court bench had considered the practicalities of reinstating Uddhav Thackeray when he had already resigned after acknowledging that he did not have the required strength of MLAs in the house.
In June 2022, a group of Shiv Sena MLAs led by Eknath Shinde rebelled against Thackeray – saying that the latter’s decision to align with the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party went against the party’s Hindutva ideology.
When it became evident that the rebel MLAs – with the support of the BJP-appointed governor – would call for a trust vote, the Shinde received disqualification notices from the then deputy speaker.
The faction moved the Supreme Court to consider whether the rebels should be disqualified.
On June 27, 2022, the top court granted interim relief to Shinde by extending the time to file responses to the disqualification notices. It later, on June 29, gave the go-ahead to a floor test called by the governor.
This copy, first published at 9.39 am on May 11, was republished with the verdict at 12.30 pm.