The Supreme Court on Wednesday shot a volley of questions at counsel representing Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde while hearing petitions filed by the Shiv Sena and its rebel MLAs on constitutional issues of splits, merger, defection, and disqualification.
Senior advocate Harish Salve, representing Shinde, contended before a bench headed by Chief Justice N.V. Ramana that there is no split in the political party rather, there is a dispute over its leadership, which can be said to be an “intra-party” dispute, not falling within the scope of defection.
As this, the Chief Justice told Salve: “I will ask one question to you, who came first to this court?” Salve replied that the rebel MLAs came to the top court when the then Deputy Speaker of the Maharashtra assembly issued disqualification notices to them, even though a notice against him was pending. He added that to say that a Speaker (Rahul Narwekar), who has been elected by the majority should be stripped of all authority and the top court to decide the disqualification is unprecedented.
On July 11, the top court asked the new Assembly Speaker Narwekar, not to decide disqualification proceedings initiated against Shiv Sena MLAs, including Chief Minister Shinde, until the court hears the matter.
The Chief Justice told Salve that Shinde faction came first to the top court and it deferred the matter for 10 days and now the Speaker should decide when the issues are before the court. Salve clarified that he is not saying the Shinde faction got an advantage due to 10 days, instead things are misconceived and not infructuous.
At this, the bench said: “There are a lot of questions about the Governor calling a group of people… we can’t say all these are infructuous.”
The Chief Justice told Salve, the entertaining of that petition (Shinde and rebel MLAs) was contrary to Karnataka judgment where the top court said the high court should be approached first.
Senior advocate Neeraj Kishan Kaul, representing the rebel MLAs, said that “the reason we came here, as there was a serious issue of threats”.
“Protection was given here.”
The Chief Justice then pointed out that generally the person (in this case, the Speaker) decides the matter and those aggrieved challenge it. “Rightly or wrongly, we granted some relief and now you come and say that we can’t decide?”
Salve said the reason they came to the top court was that the Speaker cannot decide the issue, as there was a resolution seeking his removal, and also emphasised that his client has not given up the party’s membership.
The Chief Justice queried further, if tomorrow, a disqualification petition is filed before the Speaker, and some people send a notice against the Speaker, saying the Speaker can’t decide, then?
Salve submitted: “Till the speaker decides if I have given up membership, the question of demolishing my defences will not arise. Why raise ghosts and start slaying themaour argument is simple, we have not given up membership.”
After hearing arguments, The top court asked Salve to redraft the submissions on petitions filed by the Uddhav Thackeray faction, on the questions of law, and scheduled the matter for further hearing on next Thursday.
BJP appoints new bosses for Maharashtra, Mumbai
The Bharatiya Janata Party has appointed former ministers Chandrashekhar Bawankule and Ashish Shelar as the chief of the part’s Maharashtra and Mumbai units, respectively, according to an announcement.
Bawankule and Shelar, both sitting legislators, replace Chandrakant Patil and Mangal Prabhat Lodha, who have been appointed as ministers in the government of Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and Deputy CM Devendra Fadnavis, earlier this week.
As per a statement by BJP President J. P. Nadda, both appointments are made with immediate effect, and come ahead of the imminent elections to various civic bodies in the state.
CM Eknath Shinde snubs Thackeray again, drops Shiv Sena from BAC meet
In a fresh snub to ex-CM Uddhav Thackeray, his Shiv Sena faction in the Maharashtra Assembly was dropped from the crucial Business Advisory Committee (BAC) meet to prepare for the upcoming Monsoon Session of the Legislature.
Thackeray faction leader and chief whip Ajay Chaudhari had written to Speaker Rahul Narvekar seeking representation to the BAC, but it was rejected.
However, now two ministers from the faction headed by Chief Minister Eknath Shinde have been included in the BAC — Dada Bhuse and Uday Samant.
The BAC presided over by Shinde and attended by group leaders of all parties on Thursday decided to extend the Monsoon Session by two days and now it will be held from August 17-25.
This was because the legislature will not function on August 19 (Dahi Handi celebrations) and the weekend, and the two additional days would enable discussions and decisions on various issues.
The BAC comprises Assembly members like Shinde, BJP’s Deputy CM Devendra Fadnavis, Leader of Opposition Ajit Pawar, NCP’s Jayant Patil, BJP’s Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil, Sudhir Mungantiwar and Chandrakant Patil, and Congress’ Balasaheb Thorat and Ashok Chavan.
Besides, there are other invitees like Deputy Speaker Narhari Zirwal (NCP), Ashish Shelar (BJP), Chhagan Bhujbal (NCP) and Amin Patel (Congress) in the BAC.
From the Council, besides Deputy Chairperson Neelam Gorhe, the BAC has newly-appointed Leader of Opposition Ambadas Danve and Anil Parab, both from Shiv Sena, Pravin Darekar and Vijay Girdhar (BJP), Shashikant Shinde (NCP) and Bhai Jagtap (Congress).
The invitees from the upper house included Chandrashekhar Bawankule and Ranjitsinh Mohite-Patil (BJP), Jayant Patil (PWP), Kapil Patil (Lok Bharati) and Vikas Potnis (Shiv Sena).
After the government headed by Shinde and Fadnavis was sworn-in on June 30, the monsoon session was originally scheduled to start on July 17, but was postponed for various reasons.
Skeletons peep out of Maharashtra CM’s ‘mini-cabinet’, 75% ministers face criminal cases
The 18-member ‘mini-cabinet’ expansion of Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and Bharatiya Janata Party’s Deputy CM Devendra Fadnavis have thrown up many facts, including 75 per cent of the total 20 ‘crorepati’ ministers have criminal cases lodged against them.
According to a study conducted by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), a total of 15 ministers have declared criminal cases, including seven from the Shinde Group Shiv Sena and eight from the BJP, in the ‘gents only cabinet’.
Of these, 65 per cent — or 13 ministers — including seven from Shinde Group and six from the BJP have serious criminal cases filed against them.
Of the 20 crorepatis, BJP’s Mangal Prabhat Lodha, a reputed builder, is the richest among the ministers with assets worth Rs 441.65 crore and liabilities of Rs 283.36 crore.
Though a ‘crorepati’, the poorest in the lot is also BJP’s Sandipanrao A. Bhumre with assets of Rs 2.92 crore in his name.
The average assets of the ministers’ whose poll affidavits were analysed by ADR comes to Rs 47 crore — comprising the BJP’s Rs 58 crore and Shinde Group’s Rs 36 crore.
On the academic front, two ministers (or 10 per cent) have declared their educational track record as SSC pass, six (30 per cent) as HSC pass, 11 ministers (55 per cent) are higher qualified with degrees, and only one Dr. Suresh Khade of the BJP holds a doctorate from a university in Sri Lanka.
As far as the age group is concerned, 16 ministers (80 per cent) fall in the upper echelons aged between 51-70, and four (20 per cent) are between 41-50, said the ADR’s Maharashtra Election Watch, coordinated by Ajit Ranade, Sharad Kumar and Satish Khot.
CM Shinde carried out his much-awaited cabinet expansion on Tuesday, inducting 18 ministers, including three allegedly ‘tainted’. No women MLA could find a place in the cabinet and so could not the Independents and smaller parties.
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