The Bombay High Court on Monday issued notices to Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil, Jaydutt Kshrisagar and Avinash Mahtekar who are appointed ministers in the Maharashtra cabinet last week, in a plea challenging their appointment.
A division bench of Justices S.C. Dharmadhikari and G.S. Patel was hearing a petition filed by Surinder Arora, Sanjay Kale, and Sandeep Kulkarni. The petition mentions that Mr. Patil was elected MLA from the Shirdi Assembly constituency in 2014 as an Indian National Congress Party candidate and was a leader of opposition. Mr. Kshirsagar too was elected as Congress MLA from Chousala Assembly constituency. They both resigned and joined the BJP/ Shiv Sena party respectively and thereby attracted disqualification on the grounds of defection within the meaning of Schedule X and Article 191(2) of the Indian Constitution.
“Let the respondents (ministers) also get a chance to object or respond to the petition,” the court said while posting the matter for further hearing after four weeks.
The petition says that on June 16, 2019, Mr. Patil and Mr. Kshirsagar were appointed ministers despite the fact that they are disqualified on the ground of defection as per a schedule of the Indian Constitution.
The petitioners state that these ministers being non-legislators are disqualified under the Constitution from holding a position of Member of Legislative Assembly or Member of Legislative Council.
The petition highlights that section 151 A of the Representation of People Act prohibits conduct of bye-elections if the remaining tenure is less than one year. As the tenure of the 13th Assembly shall expire on November 8, 2019, i.e. less than a period of five months, there can be no bye-election and subsequent opportunity for the three ministers to be elected.
The petition seeks an interim injunction restraining them from acting as ministers including their participation in the meetings of the council of ministers and wants the court to issue a direction to Speaker to decide on the matter. The matter has been adjourned for four weeks.