The delay in deciding the disqualification petitions against Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and Shiv Sena MLAs loyal to him Friday came under strict scrutiny by the Supreme Court which came down hard on the Maharashtra assembly speaker, saying the proceedings cannot be a “charade” and he cannot defeat its orders.
A bench comprising Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud and justices J B Pardiwala and Manoj Misra asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing Speaker Rahul Narwekar, to apprise it about the timeline for deciding the petitions on Tuesday, saying it will pass a “peremptory order” if it is not satisfied.
“Somebody has to advise the (assembly) speaker. He cannot defeat the orders of the Supreme Court. What kind of time schedule he is prescribing?…This (disqualification proceedings) is a summary procedure. Last time, we thought, better sense will prevail and had asked him to lay down a time schedule…,” said the bench.
The idea of laying down the time schedule was not to “indefinitely delay” the hearing on the disqualification proceedings, the court said.
A visibly irked CJI said a decision on disqualification pleas has to be taken before the next assembly elections or the whole process will become infructuous. The next state assembly polls will likely be held around September-October 2024.
“The decision has to be taken well before the next elections and this cannot go on merrily to render the whole process infructuous,” the bench said.
Voicing concern over non-adherence to its earlier order, the apex court said nothing has moved in the matter since June and asked the government’s top law officer to “advise the speaker”, saying “he needs assistance which is obvious”.
The bench said the speaker must give the impression that he was taking the matter seriously.
“Since June, there has been no action in the matter. What has happened in this case?. Nothing! This cannot become a charade. There has to be a hearing (before the speaker),” the bench said.
Referring to the court’s earlier orders of issuing notices and seeking a timeline for adjudication of the petitions, the CJI said the apex court was concerned about its instructions not being followed by the speaker.
“I am concerned about maintaining the dignity of our court,” the CJI said.
The top court was hearing two petitions filed by the Uddhav Thackeray faction of the Shiv Sena and the Sharad Pawar bloc of the NCP, seeking a direction to the speaker to expeditiously decide disqualification proceedings against some MLAS.
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for the Thackeray faction, referred to the delay in the proceedings and alleged that now the party will have to lead evidence to show it is an aggrieved party and said a “farce” is going on.
He said notice on the plea was issued on July 14 and nothing effective has been done till date.
The senior lawyer said if the speaker declines to club the disqualification pleas, then each matter will have to be dealt with separately.
With inputs from News18