The Supreme Court Monday reserved its order for Tuesday on the Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress combine’s plea against the Maharashtra Governor’s decision to swear in Devendra Fadnavis as chief minister and NCP leader Ajit Pawar as his deputy Saturday morning.
A bench of Justices N V Ramana, Ashok Bhushan and Sanjiv Khanna adjourned the hearing after taking note of the key letters of Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari inviting Devendra Fadnavis to form the government, and of the BJP leader claiming the support of the required number of MLAs to stake claim submitted by the Centre.
The twists and turn in the political scenario of Maharashtra took place in a matter of 12 hours from Friday night to Saturday morning, when Devendra Fadnavis was sworn in as the Maharashtra Chief Minister in an early morning ceremony. The oath ceremony took place at 7.50 am Saturday after President’s Rule was revoked at 5.47 am with Prime Minister Narendra Modi using a special rule to approve it without a cabinet meeting.
The three parties had then approached the Supreme Court for an urgent hearing on Sunday challenging the Governor’s decision. While the BJP has told the Supreme Court that it has the support of 170 MLAs, including all 54 of the NCP, Sharad Pawar has said that more than 50 MLAs are with him.
This is how the case was argued in the Supreme Court in a hearing lasting 80 minutes:
Amid the high political drama in Maharashtra and fear of ‘poaching’ of MLAs, the three-judge SC bench resumed hearing at 10:30 Monday. The Supreme Court said it is not considering the prayer of Shiv Sena-NCP-Cong that they be invited to form government in Maharashtra. Meanwhile, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre, meanwhile, submitted the letters of the Governor and Fadnavis to the court.
Tushar Mehta also read the English translation of Ajit Pawar’s letter, saying it states that for a stable government, “we” have decided to support Devdendra Fadnavis and join the government under him.
Maharashtra Governor was right to invite Fadnavis to form govt: Rohatgi
Appearing for Maharashtra BJP in Supreme Court, advocate Mukul Rohatgi said, “Today, the record of the Governor will be placed. I’ve seen that along with the letter of Fadnavis. There was a letter by Ajit Pawar as head of the legislative party with signatures of all NCP MLAs. The Governor was right in granting an invitation to him to form the government.”
Addressing the bench, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said he has the letters sought by the top court. He added that he wanted to submit something from the Governor’s point of view. He said the question he wants to be addressed is whether the court in an Article 32 petition should substitute the wise discretion of the Governor.
Continuing his arguments in the court, advocate Mehta said, “The Maharashtra governor was cognizant of the facts and situation after polls results that had led to invoking of President’s rule in the state. After being assured that no party was in a position to form the government in Maharashtra, the Governor recommended the President’s rule in the state.” He also explained that the Governor had invited the Shiv Sena, BJP and NCP for government formation and that the President’s rule was imposed only after they failed.
Governor not supposed to conduct fishing inquiry to ascertain numbers: Centre
“The Maharashtra Governor is not supposed to conduct roving, fishing inquiry to ascertain which party has the numbers to form the government. The question is can a party come, seek the court’s intervention to hold a floor test within 24 hours,” SG Mehta added.
Justice Ashok Bhushan raises questions over letter of support
Referring to the signatures, Justice Ashok Bhushan said the MLAs signatures “don’t say they are extending support to anyone”. To this, Rohatgi said the letter of support and signatures are in the form of annexure”.
In all cases, floor test was held in 24 hours: Justice Sanjiv Khanna
Justice Sanjiv Khanna said, “In all the cases, floor test was agreed upon by all sides and within 24 hours”.
Centre seeks more time to file response on Maharashtra
Seeking more time to file a response, SG Mehta said, “The Governor probably wants to test whether the welding (between Shiv Sena, NCP, Congress) would last. Giving directions to the Governor would have serious consequences for future elections.”
Ajit Pawar has support of 54 NCP MLAs, claims Rohatgi
“I met Ajit Pawar, he had the support of 54 NCP MLAs, so the Governor asked him to form the government,” advocate Rohatgi said. “It’s nobody’s case that the letters have been forged. The Governor has acted correctly so it is end of their case,” the counsel for BJP said.
SC judge, advocate Rohatgi argue over floor test
“Whether the chief minister enjoys the support of the majority on the floor of House has to be decided,” the bench said. To this, advocate Rohatgi said, “Now the question is can this court say whether the floor test can be ordered within a particular time frame. Nobody is disputing that the floor test is the ultimate test, no party can say it has to be conducted in 24 hours. A particular time frame cannot be asked to be implemented on mere apprehension of particular party.”
Supreme Court must not allow leapfrogging, says Ajit Pawar’s counsel
Counsel for Ajit Pawar, Maninder Singh, said, “I was authorised by the MLAs. The writ petition makes it clear I’m NCP. There is nothing to the contrary even as on this day. Nobody has challenged that. If there was nothing legally wrong with these letters, nothing survives in the Sena-NCP-Congress petitions. The court must say we will not allow leapfrogging and ask them to approach High Court.”
Centre urges SC not to ‘judicially review actions of Maharashtra Governor’
The counsel for BJP said, “The matter is fraught with serious consequences, the Governor’s discretionary power cannot be judicially reviewed.” Mehta said the five-judge bench is supposed to examine the power of Speaker in such matters and asked the top court not to judicially review the actions of the Governor.
Why is Ajit Pawar shying away from floor test, asks Kapil Sibal
“Today, Ajit Pawar is saying he had the support (of 54 NCP MLAs) but he has been removed from that position from NCP. If they have the majority then why should they shy away from the floor test? Why could the Governor who waited so long waited for 24 hours more? What was the national emergency to revoke President’s rule in the morning and swear in Fadnavis other than to preempt the alliance of Sena-NCP-Congress?” Kapil Sibal said.
We have original affidavits of MLAs: Kapil Sibal
“We have the original affidavits of the154 MLAs. The NCP MLAs have said they do not support Ajit Pawar,” advocate Kapil Sibal, who is appearing for Shiv Sena, said.
Fraud committed on democracy: Abhishek Singhvi
“When both the groups are open for Floor Test, why should there be a delay? Does a single NCP MLA here say we will join the BJP alliance? Is there a single covering letter saying this. This was the fraud committed on democracy,” Abhishek Singhvi, representing Congress and NCP, said.
Fraud of worst kind: Kapil Sibal tells Supreme Court
“Where was national emergency to revoke President’s rule at 5.27 am and the chief minister being administered oath at 8 am next morning. The combine has affidavits of 154 Maha MLAs supporting it, if BJP has the numbers, then they should be asked to prove the majority within 24 hours,” Kapil Sibal said. He also referred to the alleged haste by which President’s rule was revoked and the formation of government, saying it has never been done in history. “It’s fraud of worst kind, did a single NCP MLA tell Ajit Pawar that he supported him to go with BJP,” he said.
BJP not ready to face an early floor test, says Abhishek Singhvi
“We will be happy to lose in floor test today. The proof of the pudding lies in the eating. You don’t want to face an early floor test,” Abhishek Singhvi said.
SC reserves order for Tuesday
The Supreme Court reserved the order on floor test for 10.30 am on Tuesday.