In a big setback to Uddhav Thackeray’s faction, the Supreme Court on Tuesday declined to stop the Election Commission from deciding the claim of Eknath Shinde group to be the real Shiv Sena.
After a day-long hearing, a constitution bench headed by Justice D.Y. Chandrachud dismissed the interlocutory application filed on behalf of Thackeray’s faction. The apex court’s decision is very significant in view of the impending Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation elections, where both Shinde and Thackeray factions would like to contest the poll.
The bench — also comprising Justices M.R. Shah, Krishna Murari, Hima Kohli, and P.S. Narasimha — said there would not be any stay on the proceedings before the Election Commission on intra party dispute and ‘bow and arrow’ symbol of the party. “We direct that there would be no stay of the proceedings before the Election Commission of India,” it said.
Senior advocates Kapil Sibal, A.M. Singhvi and Devadatt Kamat represented the Thackeray’s faction. Sibal submitted that Shinde cannot approach the EC once he has incurred disqualification, saying “I challenged the very locus of the person who moved the EC”.
Sibal clarified that Shinde has incurred disqualification as his various acts amounted to “voluntarily giving up membership of the party” under the Tenth Schedule, and he also violated the party whip, which is also covered by the Tenth Schedule.
The Thackeray camp vociferously argued that since disqualification of Shinde and the MLAs supporting him was pending, therefore EC cannot consider their application over the party and the symbol. However, the top court declined to entertain this contention.
Senior advocates Maninder Singh, Neeraj Kishan Kaul, and Mahesh Jethmalani, assisted by advocate Abhikalp Pratap Singh, argued for the Shinde faction.
Senior advocate Arvind Datar represented the Election Commission.
Shinde’s faction counsel argued that under Article 324 of the Constitution, the EC possesses plenty of powers to deal with any situation which arises in relation to political parties and several party members have sent their representations to the EC supporting the Shinde group.
Kaul submitted that the nature of enquiry under Tenth Schedule and the Symbols Order are different.
Shinde’s faction counsel claimed a hopeless minority sought to remove him from the party, and contended that the Speaker, under the Tenth Schedule, has to exercise power to determine disqualification of a member and he cannot decide on the split or merger within a political party. Shinde faction counsel vehemently argued that a party member’s right to move the EC cannot be taken away.
The EC counsel argued that it worked independently, and its functions are different when compared with the Speaker. The counsel added that it can decide who held the majority in the party.
Shinde and his faction had rebelled against Thackeray, which forced him to resign as Maharashtra Chief Minister.
Shiv Sena’s General Secretary Subhash Desai had moved the apex court saying that Shinde and other MLAs, have purportedly initiated proceedings under para 15 of the Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order, 1968 (Symbols Order) seeking to be recognised as the “real Shiv Sena” by the EC. Desai added that they are also claiming the right to use the election symbol of “bow and arrow” allotted to Shiv Sena.
Thackeray faction claimed that since the disqualification matter is pending in the apex court, Shinde faction are trying to illegally cobble up numbers and fabricate an artificial majority in the organisation.
The apex court, on July 11, asked the newly appointed Maharashtra Assembly Speaker not to go ahead with proceedings on the disqualification petitions.