Do not reduce anti-defection proceedings into a charade, SC cautions Maharashtra Assembly Speaker

Do not reduce anti-defection proceedings into a charade, SC cautions Maharashtra Assembly Speaker

File photo of Maharasthra Speaker Rahul Narwekar.

File photo of Maharasthra Speaker Rahul Narwekar.
| Photo Credit: Emmanual Yogini

The Supreme Court on October 13 slammed Maharashtra Assembly Speaker Rahul Narwekar for reducing the anti-defection proceedings against Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and other MLAs to a “charade”, saying that he cannot “merrily” defer hearings and has to decide before the next elections.

Chief Justice Chandrachud, heading a three-judge Bench, said the Speaker has disregarded the court’s order on September 18 to prepare a time-schedule to complete the disqualification proceedings under the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution against the Shinde camp. The Bench had at the time given Mr. Narwekar a week to prepare the timeline and file it before the apex court.

On October 13, the Chief Justice said that “since nothing happened in the disqualification proceedings (against the Shinde camp) all these months, we will be constrained to say that he must take a decision in two months”. The court even considered ordering day-to-day hearings before the Speaker.

“Somebody has to advice the Speaker that he cannot defeat the orders of the Supreme Court like this… He is acting as an election tribunal when he is hearing disqualification petitions under the Tenth Schedule. He is amenable to the jurisdiction of this court…. What kind of time schedule has he prescribed so far? Nothing has happened in the proceedings… Whenever the matter is scheduled before the court, he (Speaker) holds some kind of a hearing… Tenth Schedule proceedings before the Speaker acting as an election tribunal should not be reduced to a charade,” Chief Justice Chandrachud addressed Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Speaker.

The Chief Justice asked Mr. Mehta and the Advocate General of Maharashtra to “advice” the Speaker. “Sit down with him. Advice him on how to proceed. It is obvious he needs some assistance,” Chief Justice said.

Senior advocates Kapil Sibal and AM Singhvi, for petitioner and Uddhav Thackeray loyalist Sunil Prabhu, said the court had to decide the responsibilities of the Speaker while acting as an election tribunal under the Tenth Schedule.

Mr. Mehta in turn blamed the Uddhav Thackeray camp for rushing to the Supreme Court like “school children complaining to the teacher”.

The court categorically said it would not allow the Speaker to drag on the disqualification proceedings till the next elections and make the Tenth Schedule proceedings against the Shinde camp infructuous.

“We expected the Speaker to do his job. If he is not doing it, we will hold him accountable as an election tribunal… you must apprise the Speaker. We are giving you an opportunity until October 16. If we do not find a proper time schedule set out, we will issue a peremptory order fixing a time period (for the disqualification proceedings),” the Chief Justice told Mr. Mehta, fixing the next hearing on October 17.

On May 11, a five-judge Bench had directed the Maharashtra Speaker, in his capacity as tribunal under the Tenth Schedule (anti-defection law) of the Constitution, to hear and decide the disqualification petitions within a “reasonable time”. A total of 56 MLAs are facing disqualification under the Tenth Schedule. There are 34 disqualification petitions pending, waiting for Speaker Narwekar to hear and decide.

In his petition, Mr. Prabhu had said the Supreme Court, in its May 11 judgment on the Thackeray-Shinde battle for control over Shiv Sena, had trusted Mr. Narwekar to impartially hear and decide the anti-defection proceedings.

The Supreme Court, in its January 2020 judgment in the Keisham Meghachandra Singh case, had held three months as a “reasonable time” for Speakers to decide disqualification petitions under the Tenth Schedule. eom

#reduce #antidefection #proceedings #charade #cautions #Maharashtra #Assembly #Speaker