Observing that it was necessary to expedite holding a floor test in Maharashtra Assembly, the Supreme Court directed Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari to ensure that the trust vote be held tomorrow.
The top court ruled out the secret ballot for the floor test and said the proceedings will be telecast live. It said the entire exercise has to be completed by 5 pm. The governor pro-tem speaker will administer the oath to the newly elected members. The bench also took note that one month had passed to the declaration of the result of the Assembly elections and no member had taken the oath.
“To curtail unlawful practices such as horse-trading, to avoid uncertainty and to effectuate smooth running of democracy by ensuring a stable government, we are of the considered opinion that it is necessary to pass certain interim directions in this case,” said the three-judge bench headed by Justice NV Ramana. Read | Highlights on Supreme Court’s observations
“In this context, it is necessary and expedient to conduct the floor test as soon as possible to determine whether the Chief Minister, who was administered the oath of office, has the support of the majority or not,” added the bench, also comprising Justices Sanjiv Khanna and Ashok Bhushan.
The apex court was hearing a writ petition filed by the Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress combine challenging Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari’s dramatic decision to swear in BJP’s Devendra Fadnavis as Chief Minister and Ajit Pawar of NCP as the Deputy Chief Minister. The counsel for the alliance parties had then urged the court to expedite the floor test citing its own ruling from last year on the Karnataka floor test.
On the eve of the court order, the combine of Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress held a show of strength Monday evening at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Mumbai, parading MLAs and claiming they had 162 on their side in a House of 288.
The court’s order came two days after it put off a decision on the Sena-NCP-Congress’ plea for a floor test “within 24 hours” and asked the Centre to produce the letters of the Governor inviting Fadnavis to form the government, and of the BJP leader claiming the support of the required number of MLAs to stake claim.
The three parties had asked the court to direct Governor Koshyari to invite them to form a government under the leadership of Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, saying they had finalised a common minimum programme for a post-poll alliance called the ‘Maha Vikas Aghadi’ and had the support of more than 144 MLAs.
Saying “all the MLAs of the Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress are completely and solidly with the alliance except for Shri Ajit Pawar”, the petitioners had said the Governor had acted in a “partisan manner” by inviting Fadnavis and allowed himself to be a “pawn in the BJP’s illegal usurpation of power”.
The plea called the Governor’s decision to invite Fadnavis “unconstitutional, arbitrary and illegal”, “entirely mala fide” and “for extraneous considerations without even a prima facie satisfaction based on objective material that Fadnavis has majority support of the members of the House”.
Meanwhile, appearing for some BJP MLAs, senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi submitted that in the recent matter of disqualified Karnataka MLAs, the bench headed by Justice Ramana had expressed displeasure at the legislators directly approaching the SC, and said they should have first moved the HC. Rohatgi said the Governor’s decision to call a political formation to form the government is part of his discretionary power under Article 361 which is immune to judicial review.
Reacting to the court order, Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut said truth cannot be defeated. “Satyamev jayate” (truth shall prevail),” Raut tweeted. “Satya pareshan ho sakta hai..parajit nahi ho sakta…Jai Hind!!” (truth can get frustrated, but cannot get defeated), the Rajya Sabha member said in another tweet.
NCP chief Sharad Pawar also hailed the SC’s direction calling for a floor test, saying he was grateful to the apex court for upholding the democratic values and constitutional principles.
The BJP, on the other hand, expressed confidence that the party will prove its majority. “We respect the court order. We are ready to prove majority and we will show it,” Maharashtra BJP chief Chandrakant Patil said.
With PTI inputs
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