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The Shiv Sena, the Nationalist Congress Party, and the Indian National Congress have approached the Supreme Court after the country woke up to the news of BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis being sworn in as the Chief Minister of Maharashtra.
The swearing-in ceremony took place early this morning with Senior NCP leader Ajit Pawar being sworn in as the Deputy Chief Minister, thereby creating a rift in the NCP party. The NCP faction led by its Supremo Sharad Pawar, along with its new alliance partner, the Shiv Sena, and its old ally, Congress, has now approached the Apex Court challenging the decision of the Governor to invite the BJP to form a “minority government”. It is also asserted in the petition that the alliance has the numbers.
“The Petitioners categorically assert that all the MLA’s of the Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress are completely and solidly with the alliance except for Shri Ajit Pawar.”
Claiming that the Shiv Sena had emerged as the second-largest party, followed by the NCP and the Congress, the alliance of these parties has the numbers to stake claim to form the government. The Governor of Maharashtra has “installed” a “minority BJP government” and the parties are moving the Supreme Court against these “arbitrary and malafide actions” of the Governor, the petition states.
The Governor of Maharashtra had, over a fortnight after the election results in Maharashtra were declared, invited the BJP to stake claim to form the government. The BJP, despite emerging as the single largest party, did not have the majority and the Governor thereafter invited the Shiv Sena to form the government. The Sena’s request for extension of the deadline to prove majority was declined by the Governor and the same was challenged before the Supreme Court at the time. However, the State was put under President’s rule shortly thereafter, rendering the petition infructuous.
It is contended in the petition that in light of the detailed talks taking place among the Sena, the NCP, and the Congress and resulting in a consensus as regards a Common Minimum Program, the BJP attempted to install an “unconstitutional BJP government in the State.” It is averred in the petition,
“Facing the prospect of a non BJP Government staking claim to power, the BJP in the intervening night of 22.11.2019 and 23.11.2019 has resorted to political machinations in an attempt to install a completely unconstitutional BJP Government in the State.”
According to the petitioners, it is not in the public domain as to what transpired between the night of November 22 and November 23 and in what fashion the BJP staked claim to form the government. The petition adds, that there is also no material available to indicate that Fadnavis had letters of support from 144 MLAs as was claimed. It is further pointed out that the majority mark stands at 145.
Questioning the actions of the Governor, the petition states that he ought to have studied and considered the claim made by Fadnavis, if any, considering that up until the previous night, the alliance had a strength of 154 MLAs on its side. The petition also raises the issue of why the oath was administered early in the morning and why the President’s rule was rescinded from the State in the wee hours of Saturday morning.
The petitioners have alleged that the Governor of the State has acted in a “partisan manner” and “made a mockery of the high office of the Governor”. In fact, the petitioners have further added that the actions of the Governor indicate that he has acted at the behest of a political party, in this case, the BJP. It is said,
“Unfortunately, the facts, in this case, demonstrate that the Hon’ble Governor has belittled the constitutional office of the Governor and has allowed himself to be a pawn in BJP’s illegal usurpation of power.”
The actions of the Governor to invite BJP to form the government in the State is in the teeth of the law laid down by the Supreme Court and against the basic rule of law, the petition submits. The alliance parties, therefore, have prayed for the Court to quash the order of the Governor of Maharashtra inviting Fadnavis to form the government as void ab initio, illegal, and arbitrary. They have further sought for a direction to be passed by the Court for the Governor to invite the alliance, which has the support of more than 144 MLAs, to form the government.
Chief Justice of India SA Bobde, however, is in Tirupati along with his family members for a two day visit.
The petition is filed by Advocate Sunil Fernandes and settled by Senior Advocate Devadatt Kamat. It is drawn by Advocates Javedur Rahman, Aditya Bhat, Rajesh Inamdar, Shrinidhi Rao, and Ali Asghar Rahim.