Maharashtra Political Crisis: Supreme Court to pronounce order today [Live Updates]
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Maharashtra Political Crisis: Supreme Court to pronounce order today [Live Updates]

Bar & Bench

The Supreme Court is expected to pronounce its order today in the plea filed by the Shiv Sena, the National Congress Party (NCP) and the Congress party protesting the Governor’s decision to invite the BJP to form the government in Maharashtra .

The three parties had moved the Supreme Court on Saturday challenging the Devendra Fadnavis-led government as a “minority government”.

The parties not only questioned the urgency displayed by the Governor in administering the oath to Devendra Fadnavis for the post of Chief Minister and the former NCP leader Ajit Pawar as the Deputy CM but also questioned why the President’s rule was revoked from Maharashtra at as early as 5.47am on Saturday morning.

The parties are seeking an early floor test to prove the majority and have also prayed for the quashing of the Governor’s order through which Fadnavis was invited to form the government. Thus, an early listing and an urgent hearing in the matter was sought and the parties had prayed for a hearing on Saturday night itself.

The petition was registered on Saturday, and thereafter heard on Sunday morning by a Bench of Justices NV Ramana, Ashok Bhushan, and Sanjiv Khanna.

Live updates from today follow:

  • A bench headed by Justice NV Ramana and comprising of Ashok Bhushan and Sanjiv Khanna assembles.
  • Senior Counsel Kapil Sibal and Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta and Mukul Rohatgi in the Courtroom.

Submissions by Tushar Mehta

  • Solicitor general Tushar Mehta begins to make his submissions, apprises the Court of the series of events that took place as regards invitation to form the government.
  • SG Tushar Mehta says he’s arguing for the Secretary to the Governor
  • Mehta: Letter was given by Ajit Pawar on November 22. The letter says that all the elected MLAs had elected me as the head of the NCP.
  • Mehta: The list of 54 elected MLAs (of NCP) was attached to the letter and said that NCP was extending support to the BJP.
  • Mehta: The Governor is not required to go on a roving and fishing inquiry
  • Mehta reads out the letter that Devendra Fadnavis had placed before the Governor. This letter of Devendra Fadnavis also mentions the letter written by Ajit Pawar extending support of 54 NCP MLAs. Based on this material, Fadnavis staked claim to form the Government.
  • Mehta: Governor invited BJP to form Govt and has given them time till Nov 30 to prove the majority. But now such time has come that the post-poll alliance is seeking floor test immediately in 24 hours.

Senior Counsel Mukul Rohatgi begins submissions

  • Rohatgi submits that through the weekend some of the MLAs went with Ajit Pawar and Fadnavis and now these MLAs are extending support to Sharad Pawar.
  • Rohatgi (Arguing for Fadnavis): I met Ajit Pawar, his letter had an enclosure of list of names of NCP MLAs supporting me
  • Rohatgi: Governor acted reasonably because he acted on the material placed before him.
  • Rohatgi: Yesterday we heard a chorus – “How could Governor act like this” Governor acted correctly. The signatures (of NCP MLAs) were there in the letter.
  • Justice Khanna: The question today is does the Chief Minister enjoy a majority in the House? Rohatgi: Their attack on Governor was unfounded.
  • Rohatgi: The procedure of the Assembly is Protem Speaker will be appointed, he will administer the oath to the MLAs, they will then elect a speaker and then the floor test will be conducted.
  • Tushar Mehta adds, can one party say that “we have somehow managed the flock together and if the floor test doesn’t take place in 24 hours, they’ll go away?”

Senior Counsel Maninder Singh makes submissions on behalf of Ajit Pawar

  • Singh: I (Ajit Pawar) acted as the Leader of the NCP and there is nothing to the contrary to show that I was not the NCP leader on November 22
  • Singh: Point is whether the Court will entertain the proceedings after being satisfied by the documents/letters (of 54 NCP MLAs) and nothing contrary to the letters has been shown.
  • Rohatgi: Can directions be issued to Governor who is immune?

Kapil Sibal making Submissions

  • Kapil Sibal recounts the events that transpired on Friday and Saturday as regards the announcement of the common minimum program and swearing-in.
  • Sibal: When the Governor waited for so many days, what was the emergency that required revocation of President’s Rule at 5.47 in the morning and installing a Govt at 8 am.
  • Sibal: Everything happened between 7 PM on Friday and 5 AM on Saturday morning. This was done to preempt the forming of the Govt of the three-party alliance.
  • Sibal: The pre-poll alliance between BJP and Shiv Sena fell out because promises were not kept. It had nothing to do with the NCP or the Congress.
  • Sibal: It was only after the pre-poll alliance fell out (of BJP and Shiv Sena) that we decided to go for an alternate Government.
  • Sibal: Today Ajit Pawar is saying he had the support (of 54 NCP MLAs) but he has been removed from that position from NCP. If they have the majority then why should they shy away from the floor test?

Abhishek Manu Singhvi making Submissions

  • Singhvi appearing for NCP: Today there is a peculiar case before your lordships that both sides agree that there should be a floor test. The question is a narrow one – As to when the floor test should be held?
  • Singhvi: There was a list of signatures (of 54 NCP MLAs), but did it say that the MLAs were agreeing to support the BJP. There can be signatures without a covering letter.
  • Singhvi: This is a murder of democracy!
  • Singhvi: The “how” of the floor test is important here. Regardless of the party, the senior-most member of the House should be appointed Protem Speaker
  • Floor test should be held immediately thereafter. “Immediately” is important!
  • Singhvi: It is for the purpose to preserve the purity of democracy that every order passed by the Supreme Court in the past has held that floor test to be held within 24 hours.

Rohatgi makes rejoinder submissions

  • He says rules for the Assembly are framed in the Constitution.
  • Rohatgi: The Governor, in this case, has given 14 days for a floor test. Can the Court reduce this to 3 or 4 days, when there is no gross or substantive illegality? Will that not be opposed to Article 212 (Article 212: Courts not to inquire into proceedings of the Legislature? )
  • Mukul Rohatgi: The most important thing right now is: 1) the procedure of the Appointment of Protem Speaker, 2) Oath, 3) Election of Speaker, and 4) Agenda. This is also what the rules state.
  • Rohatgi: The procedure should be followed. The floor test should be conducted after the election of the speaker and therefore it should not be today or tomorrow but according to the rules. The correct thing should be done.
  • Sibal: Once the Speaker has the confidence of the House, then the legislative proceedings start and Article 212 comes into play. *(Article 212: Courts not to inquire into proceedings of the Legislature)
  • Sibal: To ensure that the Speaker is one who enjoys the confidence of the House, I request you exercise your jurisdiction under A 142 and pass orders
  • Singhvi: Let us ask why Mr. Rohatgi is pressing for a regular Speaker
  • Rohatgi: Because the Constitution provides for it
  • Solicitor General Tushar Mehta reiterates and requests for time to reply, says he has some more material he wishes to place on the record.

Order

  • Court reserves its order to be pronounced tomorrow at 10.30 AM

Yesterday, the Court head arguments by Senior Advocates Kapil Sibal and Abhishek Manu Singhvi for the petitioners and Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi for some BJP MLAs. Whereas Solicitor General Tushar Mehta was present in Court, he had not been instructed at the time as to whom he is representing.

Following yesterday’s special hearing, the Court called for the production of letters related to formation of the government in the state i.e. the letter by the Governor inviting the BJP to form the government, and the letter of support of Devendra Fadnavis.

Read and account of yesterday’s hearing here. 

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