MLA disqualification: Bombay High Court issued Notice to Maharashtra Speaker on Shinde faction pleas [17.1.2024]

The Bombay High Court on Wednesday issued notice to Maharashtra Speaker Rahul Narwekar and the 14 MLAs of the Uddhav Thackeray group on petitions filed by Chief Minister Eknath Shinde-led Shiv Sena challenging Narwekar's order to not disqualify the lawmakers.

A division bench of Justices Girish Kulkarni and Firdosh Pooniwalla also issued notice to the Maharashtra Legislature Secretariat and directed all the respondents to file their affidavits to the petition.

The bench posted the matter for hearing on February 8.

The petitions filed by Bharat Gogavale, the chief whip of Shinde-led Shiv Sena, against the 14 MLAs said it was challenging the legality, propriety and correctness of the January 10 order passed by Speaker Narwekar dismissing the disqualification petitions filed by him against the lawmakers from the rival camp.

Gogavale has sought HC to declare the speaker's order as bad in law, quash it and disqualify all the 14 MLAs from the Thackeray group Sena (UBT).

Issue notice to all respondents. Reply affidavits if any to be filed in advance and copies to be served on the petitioner. Matter to be listed on February 8, the court said.

The petitions against each of the 14 MLAs were filed on January 12.

The court clarified that, as per a new practice, all matters filed are taken up for hearing within a day or two.

Because of auto-listing the petitions have been listed today. There is a standing notice that all matters once it is filed will be listed. This reduces the burden of mentioning and all. At least this way, the matter will move forward, Justice Kulkarni said.

In the petitions, Gogavale said that on July 3, 2022, he had issued a whip to all Shiv Sena members to vote in favour of the Shinde government during the confidence motion to be held in the assembly on July 4, 2022.

However, the 14 Uddhav Thackeray MLAs not only violated the whip but also voluntarily gave up the membership of the Shiv Sena Political Party by their acts and omissions, he said.

In his petitions, Gogavale said the Speaker had failed to consider that apart from giving up the membership, the Thackeray group MLAs also voted against the Shiv Sena government in Maharashtra in cahoots with Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) to destabilise the ruling dispensation.

While Gogavale moved HC on January 12, the Uddhav Thackeray faction on Monday filed a petition in the Supreme Court challenging the Speaker's order declaring the Sena bloc led by CM Shinde as the real political party after its split in June 2022.

The Speaker had also rejected the Thackeray faction's plea to disqualify 16 MLAs of the ruling camp, including Shinde.

In the petitions, Gogavale said since the Speaker in his order has held that Eknath Shinde represents the real Shiv Sena and that Gogavale was the legally appointed chief whip of the Shiv Sena party, he (Speaker) ought to have disqualified the 14 Sena (UBT) MLAs for their actions against the party.

The final order passed by Speaker erroneously concludes that the grounds as raised by petitioner (Gogavale) are mere allegations and assertions on the part of the Petitioner," the petitions said.

This conclusion is ex facie illegal and cannot be sustained, it added.

The pleas said that the members of the Thackeray faction voted contrary to the whip issued by Gogavale and this was part of the record of the assembly and hence in no manner can be said to be a mere allegation.

In a big political win for Shinde, Narwekar on January 10 held that the Shiv Sena faction led by him was the "real political party" when rival groups emerged in June 2022 and did not disqualify any MLA from the two camps.

17 Jan 2024