The Shiv Sena’s Uddhav Thackeray faction has filed another petition in the Supreme Court challenging the decision of Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla to recognise Rahul Shewale of the Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde led group as the floor leader. A three-judge bench of Chief Justice N V Ramana and Justices Krishna Murari and Hima Kohli is already scheduled to hear on August 1 a batch of petitions filed by the Thackeray faction in relation to several political developments in Maharashtra, before the Election Commission with regard to claim over the party and its symbol and in Parliament.
The fresh plea challenged the decision of the Lok Sabha Speaker to recognise Shewale as Shiv Sena’s floor leader at the instance of the Shinde faction. The Uddhav group terms the action of the speaker as “illegal” and “arbitrary” alleging that the Shiv Sena leader and its chief whip in the Lok Sabha were removed unilaterally. “The Speaker made the impugned changes to the positions of the leader and the chief whip without adhering to basic rules of natural justice or even calling for an explanation from the Shiv Sena political party or the petitioners herein, despite categorical requests in this regard having been communicated to him,” the plea submitted.
The plea said names of Vinayak Raut and Rajan Vichare as the Leader and the Chief Whip of the Shiv Sena in the Lok Sabha respectively were reiterated and communicated to Birla, it said. However, the Speaker approved the names proposed by the Shinde faction, it said. “As such, the actions of the respondent No.1 being palpably and manifestly arbitrary and in outright violation of the scheme envisaged under the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution, is in the teeth of Article 14 thereof,” it submitted.
Shinde, with 12 of the 19 Lok Sabha members from Shiv Sena by his side, had named Shewale as the leader of the party in the Lok Sabha and Bhawana Gawale as the chief whip. Earlier, Vinayak Bhaurao Raut and Rajan Vichare were the leader of the party and chief whip of the Shiv Sena in the Lok Sabha.
On July 26, the top court had agreed to hear on August 1 another fresh plea by the Thackeray faction against Election Commission proceedings on a petition by the Shinde-led group for recognition as the real Shiv Sena. Recently, the poll panel asked the rival factions of the Shiv Sena led by Thackeray and Shinde to submit documents by August 8 in support of their claims on the election symbol — bow and arrow — of the political outfit.
The poll panel sources had said the two sides have been asked to submit documents, including letters of support from the legislative and organisational wings of the party and the written statements of rival factions. The top court on July 20 had said the petitions filed by the Shiv Sena and its rebel MLAs during the recent Maharashtra political crisis raised constitutional issues including split, the merger of a political party, defection, and disqualification which may require consideration by a larger bench.
The bench, meanwhile, had extended the operation of its July 11 order by which it had asked Assembly Speaker not to proceed with a plea seeking disqualification of MLAs of Thackeray faction as sought by the Shinde group on grounds of defying the party whip during the trust vote and the election of the speaker. The bench is seized of a batch of pleas about the recent political crisis in Maharashtra that led to the fall of the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government in the state.
The first one was filed by the Shinde faction during the summer vacation when some rebel Sena MLAs moved before it challenging the disqualification proceedings initiated by the deputy speaker. The other seven have been filed by the Thackeray faction. The Shiv Sena split last month when more than two-thirds of the party’s MLAs withdrew their support from the Maharashtra government led by Thackeray, throwing their lot with Shinde. Shinde was sworn in as the Maharashtra chief minister on June 30 with support of the BJP.