Tuesday, July 16, 2024

SC issues stern warning to Maha Speaker on delay in deciding defection petitions

The Supreme Court on Friday came down heavily on the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly Speaker for the delay in hearing and deciding the disqualification petitions filed by Shiv Sena (Uddhav Thackeray) and NCP (Sharad Pawar faction).

Following the split in the party, two factions of Shiv Sena filed petitions against each other under the anti-defection law. Jayant Patil of NCP (Sharad Pawar faction) also had filed a petition in the Apex Court against the delay by the Maharashtra Speaker in hearing the defection pleas following a split in NCP.

The bench comprising Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud, Justice J.B. Pardiwala and Justice Manoj Misra heard a writ petition filed by Sunil Prabhu seeking an expeditious decision by the Speaker.

Prabhu is part of the Uddhav Thackeray faction of Shiv Sena.

The top court said that the Speaker should take a decision on the matter at least before the next Lok Sabha elections and should not render the issue infructuous by delaying it.

“I’m concerned about maintaining the dignity of our court,” the CJI said.

Senior Advocates Kapil Sibal and Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for Prabhu, informed the court that the Speaker has now framed a hearing schedule for one year.

Expressing dismay at the schedule set by the Speaker, Sibal said that it makes one wonder if the procedure is a civil suit.

“This is becoming a farce..”, Sibal said.

The CJI then conveyed displeasure regarding the Speaker’s conduct to Solicitor General of India (SGI) Tushar Mehta.

Questioning the schedule prescribed by the Speaker, the CJI said, “He cannot defeat the orders of the Supreme Court…This is a summary procedure. Last time, we thought better sense will prevail and asked him to lay down a schedule. The idea of laying down the schedule was not to indefinitely delay the hearing.”

Noting that since June, there has been no action on the matter, the CJI told SG Mehta that the Speaker must give the impression that he is taking the matter seriously.

“This cannot become a charade,” the CJI said.

The SG submitted before the court that the Speaker under the tenth schedule is a Tribunal and asked if the apex court can interfere with the everyday functioning of a Tribunal

On this, the CJI said that as a Tribunal, the Speaker is amenable to the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction.

In July, the top court had issued a notice.

In September, the court expressing dissatisfaction with the delay had asked the Speaker to lay down a schedule for hearing the petitions pending since July 2022. Taking note of this, the CJI remarked orally, “We are constrained to say, that the Speaker must make a decision in two months” To this, the Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi representing the Shinde government objected.

The bench, however, maintained that the top court can put the Speaker to account if he is delaying a decision despite court orders. Saying that the decision has to be taken before the next General Elections, the CJI asked Rohatgi “why his clients are fearing a decision by the Speaker?”

The bench adjourned the hearing till October 17, directing the Speaker to give a schedule for the hearing.

The CJI further warned that the court would pass a peremptory order setting down a timeline if a hearing schedule was not put in place.

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