Maharashtra Political Crisis: Live Updates from the Supreme Court
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Maharashtra Political Crisis: Live Updates from the Supreme Court

Bar & Bench

The Supreme Court of India is sitting on a Sunday to hear a petition related to the ongoing political crisis in Maharashtra.

The matter is being heard by a Bench of Justices NV Ramana, Ashok Bhushan, and Sanjiv Khanna.

Live updates of the hearing follow:

  • Bench headed by Justice NV Ramana and comprising of Ashok Bhushan and Sanjiv Khanna assembles.

Submissions of Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal

  • Hearing begins on a light note. Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal apologizes to the Bench for the hearing on a Sunday and says “But we are not the only ones to blame”.
  • Sibal apprising the Court of the developments in the State starting from election results. In the formation of the government, Governors have some discretion, as is decided by the judgments of this Court.
  • In this case, a pre-poll alliance broke down and we have to look at the post-poll alliance now. In a presser a few days ago, the tripartite alliance (of Shiv Sena, NCP, and INC) was announced.
  • A common minimum program was arrived at and it was agreed that Uddhav Thackeray would be the CM.
  • It is bizarre that on Saturday at 5.47 AM, President’s rule was revoked and in less than three hours, Fadnavis and Ajit Pawar were sworn in.
  • From there on, everything is shrouded in mystery, what documents were given, what material was placed, nothing is in the public domain.
  • It appears that the Governor is acting directly under the orders of a political party. The act of the Governor smacks of bias, is malafide, contrary to all norms.
  • Only thing to do today is if they believe they have the numbers, majority and can prove their support, they should be directed to conduct floor test today itself.
  • Bhushan J: When were the letters submitted? Sibal: We don’t know. Nobody knows. When was the approach made, what documents were submitted is not known. We are saying if they have the majority, let them prove it. If they don’t, allow us to form the government.
  • Sibal cites the Karnataka case of 2018. In the Karnataka case, the floor test was directed to be conducted within 24 hours.
  • Bench asks who Solicitor General Tushar Mehta is representing. Mehta: I was served a copy of the petition late night, so I’m here. I don’t have instructions for who I’m representing.
  • Mukul Rohatgi is representing some BJP MLAs and some independent MLAs. Rohatgi: I was in the Karnataka case also. This case should have gone through [Article] 226 jurisdiction.
  • Rohatgi: The government has been formed for now so there is no reason for this Sunday hearing. Justice Bhushan: That is the discretion of the CJI, Mr. Rohatgi Justice Ramana: We have bee nominated to hear the case so it is our duty to do it.
  • Sibal continues with his argument, says all the past orders of the  Supreme Court have been consistent in ordering floor test. Floor test must be conducted because people of Maharashtra deserve a government. They don’t want to do it because they want to use the intervening time.

Submission of Senior Advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi

  • Abhishek Manu Singhvi begins to make submissions. The obligation of Governor to satisfy himself, based on written documents, bearing signatures and physical verification.
  • The NCP had a meeting yesterday removing Ajit Pawar, expelling him from the post. Out of 54 MLAs (of NCP), 41 have signed it and sent it to the Governor this morning.
  • How can Ajit Pawar be Deputy CM when 41 NCP MLAs have said that “we are with NCP and we don’t recognize him as NCP leader anymore”?
  • The best way to decide this is to have a floor test and the source of this is the SR Bommai judgment. The idea to hold quick floor test is to prevent horse-trading.
  • Singhvi recounts the  Supreme Court order in the Karnataka case, where pro tem speaker was directed to be appointed and the floor test was directed to be televised.
  • Singhvi also cites the Goa and Uttarakhand cases where floor test was directed to be held within a specific period of time. In the Uttarakhand case, a “composite” floor test was directed between contesting political alliances. The same thing was ordered in the Jagdambika Pal case.
  • If floor test is ordered for tomorrow, larger issues may come back to the Supreme Court later. How is it possible for someone claiming majority yesterday to shy away from a floor test today? If the floor test is ordered, it is not an invasive adversarial order at all.

Submissions of Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi

  • Rohatgi begins to make submissions now. The correct procedure is parties should be served and they can file replies. There is no tearing hurry.
  • For so many days they didn’t lift a little finger to form the government and now someone else has formed the Govt. No doubt that the floor test is inevitable, but the decision of the Governor are not subject to judicial review.
  • When the governor chooses the CM, it is not open to judicial review. It is his individual discretion, not guided by the Cabinet. Rohatgi cites Article 361 – Protection of President and Governors and Rajpramukhs.
  • Actions of the Governor are immune under Article 361. The power of President or Governor to appoint PM or CM is immune. Justice Ramana: These are all settled laws. The issue in the present case is regarding floor test.
  • Prayer in the petition says “direct the governor to invite…” How can this be a prayer? Justice Ramana (in lighter vein): Mr. Rohatgi, in this Court, sky is the limit for asking for prayers.
  • This is why three days time should be given for everyone to file replies. They should have done their homework before disturbing the Court on late night and disturbing us on Sunday.
  • The House respects the Court, Court must respect the House. They are individual organs, there is self-restraint. Tomorrow, can the legislature pass legislation saying that the Court must dispose of all cases in 2 years? The independence has to be respected, can’t be breached.
  • This petition is not maintainable and Mr. Sibal is saying notice not necessary, pass exparte orders? What kind of argument is this?
  • The Governor is not an inferior post to the Court that he can be directed to do all this. I submit that notice should be issued and we should be allowed to spend rest of our Sunday in peace. Rohatgi concludes.

Order

Breaking: Supreme Court directs Solicitor General Tushar Mehta to produce the two letters – One by Governor inviting BJP to form govt, and Second the letter of support placed by Fadnavis tomorrow. Appropriate orders will be passed by the Court at 10.30 AM tomorrow after seeing these letters.

The Supreme Court also issues notice to Devendra Fadnavis, Ajit Pawar, Union of India, and the State of Maharashtra.

The Shiv Sena, the Nationalist Congress Party, and the Indian National Congress had approached the Supreme Court after BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis was sworn in as the Chief Minister of Maharashtra. The alliance of the three parties has approached the Apex Court challenging the decision of the Governor to invite the BJP to form a “minority government”.

The petitioners have alleged that the Governor of Maharashtra 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.

Therefore, the alliance parties have prayed for the Court to quash the order of the Governor inviting Fadnavis to form the government as void ab initio, illegal, and arbitrary. They have also sought a direction from the Court to the Governor to invite the alliance, which has the support of more than 144 MLAs, to form the government in Maharashtra.

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