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What is the SC ruling on Sena vs. Sena?

This article focuses on a recent judgment by the Supreme Court that raises questions regarding the decision of then Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshiyari to call for a trust vote. 
What is the context?

The Supreme Court unanimously declared the call for a trust vote by then Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshiyari to be illegal. It led to the resignation of the Uddhav Thackeray-led Maha Vikas Aghadi government last year. The Court ruled that Mr. Koshiyari had no justification for asking Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray to prove his majority on the House floor. However, the Court stated that it was unable to restore Mr. Thackeray as Chief Minister as he had resigned instead of facing the trust vote.

What is the story so far?

  • The MVA government led by Uddhav Thackeray was replaced by another government last year. This new government included a faction of Shiv Sena, Bharatiya Janata Party, and Independent MLAs.
  • Eknath Shinde filed the first petition after the Constitution’s 10th Schedule issued notices against 40 rebel MLAs on the grounds of defection. The Thackeray group then filed petitions challenging the Governor’s decision to call for a trust vote. The election of the new Speaker was also challenged.

Can the Supreme Court decide a disqualification petition?

  • The Speaker is the authority to adjudicate petitions for disqualification under the 10th Schedule.
  • The Court stated that it cannot ordinarily adjudicate petitions for disqualification under the 10th Schedule. The  Speaker must decide disqualification petitions within a reasonable period.
  • MLAs can participate in House proceedings regardless of pending disqualification petitions.
  • Proceedings of the House during the interregnum aren’t dependent on disqualification petition outcomes.

What did the Supreme Court say about the floor test in the Maharashtra government case?

  • The Supreme Court held that the Governor’s decision to call for a floor test was not justified.
  • The governor did not have reasons based on objective material before him to reach the conclusion that Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray had lost the confidence of the House.
  • The Governor was justified in inviting Eknath Shinde to form the government.

What did the Court say about the role of the political party in relation to the legislature party?

  • The Court ruled that the political party appoints both the Whip and the Leader in the House. The political party issues the direction to vote in a particular manner or abstain, not the legislature party.
  • The Court disagreed with the argument that the legislature party appoints the Whip. It would sever the figurative umbilical cord which connects a member of the House to the political party.
  • The Speaker’s action approving Mr. Shinde’s appointment as Shiv Sena leader in the House was contrary to law. The Court directed the Speaker to recognize the Whip and the authorised Leader .

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