Days after the Supreme Court directed Maharashtra Assembly Speaker Rahul Narwekar to spell out the timeline for adjudication of the disqualification petitions filed against Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and his Sena MLAs within a week, Mr. Narwekar on September 25 initiated the hearing and decided to conduct the official hearing on October 13.
The Shiv Sena split in June last year following a rebellion by Mr. Shinde, who went on to become CM after unseating the Thackeray-led Maha Vikas Aghadi government. The Thackeray faction subsequently sought the disqualification of several MLAs, including Mr. Shinde, citing anti-defection laws.
“Following extensive arguments from both the factions, the Speaker has announced the official hearing date for the disqualification petitions against Shiv Sena MLAs,” Advocate Anil Sakhare, representing the Chief Minister said.
He said that Mr. Narwekar heard their arguments as they strongly opposed the consolidation of the petition filed before him.
“Our request is to conduct independent hearings for each of these petitions,” he said, adding that the first hearing is set for October 13, and the arguments would revolve around whether to conduct hearings for all petitions together or separately.
A total of 39 MLAs face disqualification petitions. The Speaker is likely to issue orders on how the go with the petitions and the timeline of hearing within two days.
Mr. Sakhare clarified that no official hearing took place during the day; only procedural matters were addressed. “The Thackeray faction intends to consolidate all petitions and hold a single hearing, while we are against such proposal,” he said.
Shiv Sena (UBT) Rajya Sabha MP Anil Desai expressed his faction’s Opposition to the demand made by Mr. Shinde’s group for independent hearings and the production of additional evidence in the disqualification petitions against MLAs.
“Our legal team has conveyed to Mr. Narwekar that there is no necessity for independent hearings, as the matter pertains to a group of MLAs from the Shinde faction who have not followed party directives. This falls under the purview of the 10th Schedule of the Constitution,” he said.
Mr. Desai urged the Speaker to expedite the resolution of the issue without unnecessary delays.
In February, the Election Commission of India allotted the name ‘Shiv Sena’ and the party’s bow and arrow symbol to the Mr. Shinde-led faction of Shiv Sena in effect recognising it as the original party founded by Balasaheb Thackeray. On May 11, the apex court ruled that Mr. Shinde will continue to be the CM of Maharashtra and said it cannot reinstate the MVA coalition government headed by Mr. Thackeray as the latter chose to resign without facing a floor test in the wake of Mr. Shinde’s rebellion.
In July, Mr. Narwekar had issued notices to 40 MLAs of the Mr. Shinde-led Sena and 14 of the Thackeray faction, seeking their replies on disqualification petitions against them. The notices were issued against 54 MLAs, including the Chief Minister and Shiv Sena (UBT) leader Aaditya Thackeray. However, notice was not issued against Shiv Sena (UBT) legislator Rutuja Latke who was elected after the Shiv Sena split last year.
Meanwhile, Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar-led faction of the Nationalist Congress Party has submitted a petition to Mr. Narwekar, last week, seeking the disqualification of 10 MLAs affiliated to party supremo Sharad Pawar. The MLAs are State Chief Jayant Patil, Anil Deshmukh, Jitendra Awhad, Rohit Pawar, Rajesh Tope, Balasaheb Patil, Sunil Bhusara, Sandeep Kshirsagar, Suman Patil and Prajakt Tanpure. While Mr. Sharad Pawar’s faction has already filed disqualification petition against 40 MLAs who allied with Mr. Ajit Pawar.