Coming down heavily on Maharashtra Assembly Speaker for the delay in deciding the 2022 disqualification petitions against MLAs, the Supreme Court today said “this can’t go on forever” and sought a schedule by Tuesday.
Disqualification petitions against 39 MLAs, issued during the 2022 Shiv Sena rebellion that toppled the Uddhav Thackeray government, are pending before Speaker Rahul Narwekar. Eknath Shinde, who led the rebellion, is now Chief Minister and has also taken control of Shiv Sena. He, too, faces a disqualification notice. Mr Narwekar, is from the BJP, has been accused of the Opposition for delaying a decision on the disqualification pleas.
The Supreme Court today said a decision on the matter has to be taken well before the next elections. “It can’t take forever,” Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud said, adding that the delay risks making the disqualification proceedings “infructuous”.
“We will keep the matter for Tuesday. Let the Speaker give a time schedule. If not, we will give a timeframe for the completion of the proceedings. The order of this court has to be followed,” the bench, also comprising Justice JB Pardiwala and Justice Manoj Misra, told Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the Shinde faction.
The court said it respects all branches of constitutional authorities and had not a set a deadline because it trusts the Speaker to act responsibly. “But we are worried about the dignity of the court. No step has been taken in six months,” the Chief Justice of India said.
Uddhav Thackeray, who led the Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress government in Maharashtra, had approached the Supreme Court after the rebellion forced him to resign.
The court had earlier ruled that it cannot reinstate Mr Thackeray as Chief Minister because he had stepped down without facing a test of majority.
The court had on September 18 asked Mr Narwekar for a timeline to decide the disqualification petitions against Mr Shinde and MLAs loyal to him who tied up with the BJP to form the new government.
The Speaker has earlier said Opposition’s attempts to press him for a speedy decision on the disqualification pleas do not affect him.
“Whatever decisions I take, they will be as per the law and as per provisions of the Constitution. Such statements do not put any pressure on me as the speaker of the legislative assembly. I do not attach any importance to such pressure tactics,” he told reporters in Pune earlier this week, news agency PTI reported.
Asked about the delay, he had then said he needs time to decide the petitions. “We have to decide on various contentious issues. Need to see which is the original political party? Who was the person authorised to issue a whip? If we deliver a decision without giving an opportunity to all those concerned and without following the principles of natural justice, it would be arbitrary,” he said.
Asked about requests before the Supreme Court seeking a swift decision, he had said anyone can file a petition.
“It does not mean whatever a petitioner is stating in the petition is true. This is a process, and we should allow the court to do its work. We should allow the speaker to function, and this is called parliamentary democracy,” he had said.