Retired Supreme Court judge Justice P B Sawant Tuesday said NCP leader and newly-appointed Deputy Chief Minister of Maharashtra Ajit Pawar stands on weak ground and has no locus standi to issue whip to MLAs in the legislative Assembly. His comments came hours before the Supreme Court ordered a floor test in the House on Wednesday, November 27.
Justice (retd) PB Sawant said Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari had “violated the Constitution and the principles of parliamentary democracy”.
“Whatever is currently happening in Maharashtra is highly unconstitutional. From the appointment of Chief Minister and Deputy CM and their bid to form the government, this is not the constitutional route. Even when the Assembly term expired, the appointment of the caretaker chief minister was unconstitutional. The Governor should not have been a party to these unconstitutional happenings… The MLAs first have to take an oath, only then the Assembly takes birth and subsequently the government has to be formed,” he said, adding that the Governor “failed to maintain the dignity of the August office”.
Justice Sawant described the Governor as a “puppet in the hands of the government”, and said, “The Governor is the head of the State and he cannot behave like the leader of the ruling party.”
“Ajit Pawar has been removed from the post of the legislature party head by the NCP. Therefore, he can’t issue a whip. It will be unconstitutional,” Justice Sawant said. He added that Jayant Patil, who was subsequently appointed the legislature party leader by NCP, was the rightful leader to issue the whip.
Agreeing with Justice Sawant’s view, constitutional expert Ulhas Bapat said that though Ajit was first appointed the legislature party leader, he was removed from the post and a new leader was appointed. “There is a general law that if one decision is superseded by another, the second one shall prevail. For instance, in case of a Will, if the first Will is superseded by another, the second one shall prevail,” said Bapat.
“The new leader’s (Jayant Patil) whip will be valid as the old leader no more remains in charge following his removal by the party,” he said.
Constitutional and legal experts agree that from the disqualification aspect too, Ajit stands on a slippery ground. “If two-third of NCP MLAs — that is 36 — vote against his whip, those will be held valid. In this case, anti-defection law does not apply,” Bapat said.
Calling it an “unprecedented situation,” advocate Asim Sarode said, “The pro tem Speaker has to give an oath to MLA who will then be elected the permanent Speaker. The election of a permanent Speaker will make it clear who is on which side…”
On Saturday, Devendra Fadnavis and Ajit were administered oath by Governor Koshyari in a sudden ceremony. NCP described the oath-taking ceremony as “chori chori chupke chupke ceremony.”
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