THE Supreme Court wondered on Thursday as to how it can reinstate the Uddhav Thackeray Government in Maharashtra when the Chief Minister had put in his papers even before facing the floor test, after the faction led by him pitched for setting aside the Governor’s June 2022 order to the CM to take a floor test. However, the Supreme Court on Thursday reserved its verdict on a batch of cross-petitions of Uddhav Thackeray and CM Eknath Shinde factions pertaining to the Maharashtra political crisis. A five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice DY Chandrachud reserved its verdict after hearing arguments advanced on behalf of both Uddhav and Eknath factions and the office of the Governor.
The bench, comprising Justices MR Shah, Krishna Murari, Hima Kohli and PS Narasimha concluded the hearing after senior advocates Kapil Sibal, AM Singhvi, Devadatt Kamat and advocate Amit Anand Tiwari made their submissions. The top court also heard arguments of senior advocates Neeraj Kishan Kaul, Harish Salve, Mahesh Jethmalani and advocate Abhikalp Pratap Singh for Maharashtra CM Eknath Shinde-led faction. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta represented the office of the Governor in the matter. The five-judge constitution bench reserved its verdict after nine days of hearing which had commenced on February 21. The Thackeray faction made vehement submissions before the court urging it to turn back the clock and restore the “status quo ante” (previously existing state of affairs) as it had done in 2016 when it reinstalled Nabam Tuki as the Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh.
Senior lawyer Kapil Sibal, representing the Thackeray bloc, urged a five-judge constitution bench headed by Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud to rescind Governor B S Koshyari’s order for a floor test, a day after the apex court questioned his conduct in calling for a trust vote merely on the ground of differences between Shiv Sena MLAs. The bench took note of the submissions of senior advocate AM Singhvi, also appearing for Uddhav Thackeray, and quipped “So, according to you, we do what? Reinstate you? But you resigned. That’s like the court being asked to reinstate a Government which has resigned before the floor test.” The bench, also comprising Justice MR Shah, Krishna Murari, Hima Kohli and PS Narasimha, which reserved its verdict on cross petitions filed by Thackeray and Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde factions, asked Singhvi, “How can the court reinstate the Chief Minister, who did not even face the floor test.” The top court heard the arguments advanced by the two sides and the Governor, who was represented by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, over nine working days. While a battery of eminent lawyers including Sibal, Singhvi, Davadutt Kamat and Amit Anand Tiwari appeared for the Thackeray group, senior advocates N K Kaul, Mahesh Jethmalani and Maninder Singh represented the Shinde faction.
During the day-long hearing, Singhvi referred to the sequence of events before the Thackeray Government resigned and said, “My resignation is irrelevant. Your lordships are not reinstating anyone but restoring the status quo ante.” He referred to the 2016 Nabam Rebia judgement by which the top court had turned the political clock back in Arunachal Pradesh by reinstalling Tuki as the Chief Minister of the State and unseated the BJP supported Kalikho Pul Government. Singhvi said, “The resignation of the ex-CM on June 29, 2022 would be irrelevant… as once the illegal act of the Governor is allowed to be implemented, the result of the trust vote was a known and foregone conclusion, and factually there was no need for the ex-CM to subject himself to it.” He submitted the crux of the issue raised by Thackeray remains that the direction to hold the trust vote was an “illegal act” because the Governor did so by recognising a faction of 34 Legislators.