The Maharashtra rebels camping in BJP-ruled Assam have moved their battle to the Supreme Court. The court will take up two petitions on Monday — one by rebel Shiv Sena leader Eknath Shinde; the other by 15 MLAs belonging to his camp.
The petitions challenge the decision by Deputy Speaker Narhari Zirwal to recognise Ajay Choudhary as leader of the Shiv Sena Legislature Party (SSLP) in place of Shinde, and the disqualification notices served on Shinde and the 15 MLAs.
The matter has been listed before a vacation bench of Justices Surya Kant and J B Pardiwala.
Former Solicitor General of India Harish Salve will represent the Shinde camp. Former Congress leader Kapil Sibal will appear for the Deputy Speaker, and Congress MP Abhishek Manu Singhvi for the Shiv Sena.
“Legal recourse is the only way forward,” a spokesperson for the Shinde camp said on Sunday. “The Shiv Sena is trying to create hurdles even though the majority of party MLAs have abandoned them.”
The Shinde camp has claimed it has 39 of the Sena’s 55 MLAs, including Minister for Higher Education and Technical Education Uday Samant, who flew to Guwahati to join the rebels on Sunday. The rebels are now more than two-thirds (37) of the Sena legislature party.
Several Independent MLAs too are with Shinde. “We are 50-plus in all,” Shinde said.
According to Shinde’s petition, the Deputy Speaker recognised Choudhary as leader of the SSLP “despite the said request being admittedly made by a minority faction” of the Legislature Party, and the action was, therefore, “illegal and unconstitutional”.
The notice issued to him on Saturday on a plea to disqualify him from the Assembly too “is grossly illegal, unconstitutional and in utter disregard” of the previous rulings of the Supreme Court on this subject, Shinde has said.
“It is common knowledge that the current government in the State of Maharashtra, led by the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) alliance has lost the majority in the house as 38 of the members of the Shiv Sena Legislature Party have withdrawn their support thus bringing it below the majority in the house. However, the MVA government continues to misuse the office of the Deputy Speaker to ensure that they remain in power by whatever means necessary,” the petition says.
“The disqualification notice is classic example of the Deputy Speaker acting hand in glove with the Government in an attempt to hastily disqualify” him “along with other supporters”, and “the Disqualification Rules and the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly Rules are sought to be completely bypassed”, Shinde has argued.