The Supreme Court has come down hard on Maharashtra Speaker Rahul Narwekar over delays in ruling on disqualification of lawmakers in the Sena vs Sena war that erupted after some lawmakers quit the Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena and aligned with the rebel faction led by Eknath Shinde.
The court warned Mr Narwekar he could not continue to drag his feet – having already been given nearly five months – and demanded to know what action had been taken following the court’s May 11 judgement, in which he had been told to rule on the petitions within a “reasonable time”.
A bench led by Chief Justice DY Chandrachud told Solicitor General Tushar Mehta – appearing for Mr Narwekar – “Mr SG, he has to decide. He can’t do this (keep delaying the decision). What did the Speaker do after the May 11 judgement by (this) court?”
An irate Supreme Court reiterated its earlier order – to “decide the disqualification petitions within a reasonable period” – but this time left no room for interpretation, noting, “We direct that (the) Speaker shall hear the matter (of disqualification) no later than a period of one week”.
The court also sought a proposed timeline of the hearing from Mr Narwekar and reminded him the office of the Speaker of the Maharashtra Assembly had to follow the dignity of the Supreme Court.
The court then listed the matter for its hearing in two weeks’ time.
The Supreme Court’s strong comments today came as it heard a petition by the Uddhav Thackeray faction urging it to direct Mr Narwekar to take an early decision on the petitions. A total of 34 – filed by both sides – seeking disqualification of 56 MLAs, including Chief Minister Shinde, are pending.
“Proceedings A Farce”
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for the petitioner, told the court today’s petition had been filed after alleged prolonged inaction from the Speaker following the May 11 order. Mr Sibal said the September 14 hearing of the disqualification petitions was only after the court listed his petition.
Mr Narwekar began hearing disqualification petitions last week but only for a few hours before Shinde faction lawyers claimed they had not received some documents and it was postponed.
Mr Sibal called the disqualification hearings as “farce”. Mr Mehta hit back objecting to Mr Sibal’s attack on the Speaker but the Chief Justice interrupted, pointing out, “It appears nothing has happened”.
Supreme Court’s May 11 Verdict
A Constitution Bench of the court refused to interfere with the disqualification petitions and also said Eknath Shinde would continue as Chief Minister of Maharashtra.
“Supporting Unconstitutional Government”
Earlier today Sanjay Raut, a senior leader with the Sena’s Thackeray faction (now called Shiv Sena UBT), had accused Mr Narwekar of supporting an “unconstitutional government” by delaying action.
“Despite a clear directive from the Supreme Court – referring to the May 11 ruling – the Speaker is wasting time when it comes to deciding on disqualification petitions,” Mr Raut declared.
He also accused lawmakers who had jumped ship of doing so to get “relief from central probe agencies” as they “control certain sugar mills facing financial irregularities and corruption case”.