Maharashtra government formation: SC to pronounce order on November 26

PTI | Updated on November 25, 2019

Scans the letters of the Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and the Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar

The Supreme Court on Monday said it will pass an order at 10:30 AM on Tuesday on the plea filed by the Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress combine against the Maharashtra Governor’s decision to swear-in Devendra Fadnavis as the Chief Minister of the State.

A bench comprising justices NV Ramana, Ashok Bhushan and Sanjiv Khanna is likely to pass an order on holding of a floor test.

The combine was pressing that the floor test be ordered on Monday itself, which was opposed by Fadnavis and Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar.

When Fadnavis was sworn-in as chief minister on November 23, Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari had granted him 14 days to prove majority in the House.

Earlier, on Monday, the Supreme Court heard the plea of three parties who wish to form the government with Shiv Sena supremo, Uddhav Thackeray, as the Maharashtra Chief Minister.

The apex court said that it was not considering the prayers of Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress and that they be invited to form govt in Maharashtra.

The Central Government’s Solicitor General Tushar Mehta submitted letters of the Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari and current Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis in the Supreme Court. “The Governor was cognizant of facts and the situation after polls results that had led to invoking of President’s rule in the State,” said Centre to Supreme Court.

The Centre further said that the Governor recommended President’s rule in the State after being assured that no party was in position to form government in Maharashtra.

Also read: Maharashtra government formation: Chronology of events

The Supreme Court was looking into the letters of the Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and the Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar with regards to staking claim for forming the Maharashtra government. The Solicitor General said the letters had endorsement of all 54 NCP MLAs. It also scanned the letter by the Maharashtra Governor Koshyari. Koshyari’s letter had invited Devendra Fadnavis to form the government in the State.

The Solicitor General also explained that the Maharashtra Governor had invited Shiv Sena, BJP and NCP to form the government and that the President’s rule was imposed only after they had failed to do so.

The Centre told the Supreme Court that the Maharashtra Governor was not supposed to conduct the roving and fishing inquiry to ascertain which party has numbers to form government. “Question is can a party come, seek court’s intervention to hold floor test within 24 hours?” asked the Centre to the apex court.

Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, who is representing the BJP and some independent MLAs in the matter, stated that Ajit Pawar's letter supported Devendra Fadnavis. “One Pawar is with me, another Pawar is here in the Supreme Court,” said Advocate Mukul Rohatgi to the Supreme Court. He, further said, “I met Ajit Pawar, he had the support of 54 NCP MLAs, so the governor asked him to form the government.”

Floor test is the ultimate test, says Centre

The BJP told the Supreme Court that it is nobody’s case that the letters have been forged and the Maharashtra Governor had acted correctly. “So it is end of their case,” said the BJP. “Whether the Chief Minister enjoys a majority support on the floor of the House has to be decided,” said the Supreme Court. Rohatgi asked the apex court, “Now the question is, can this court say whether floor test can be ordered within a particular time frame?”

The BJP said that the Governor’s action –- i.e., calling a party to form the government -- was immune from judicial review. They also stated that the matter has been fraught with serious consequences, and the Governor’s discretionary power cannot be judicially reviewed.

“A particular time frame cannot be asked to be implemented on mere apprehension of particular party,” Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told the Supreme Court. 

The Centre told the Supreme Court that nobody was disputing that floor test is ultimate test, no party can say it has to be conducted in 24 hours. "The Supreme Court's 5-judge bench is supposed to examine power of Speaker in such matters," said Rohatgi. He also asked the Supreme Court not to judicially review actions of the Maharashtra Governor.

The Central Government has appealed to the Supreme Court to grant three about three days to file a reply.

Senior advocate Maninder Singh, who appeared for Ajit Pawar, said that he represents the NCP and the Maharashtra governor had rightly invited Fadnavis to form the government. "No case for grant of interim order has been made out by the Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress," said the BJP to the Supreme Court.

BJP must prove majority, says Sibal

Kapil Sibal, who is representing the Shiv Sena, opened his arguments in the Supreme Court and referred to the presser of three parties, where Uddhav Thackeray was declared the Maharashtra Chief Minister. "Where was the national emergency to revoke the President’s rule at 5:27 AM and the Chief Minister being administered oath at 8 AM next morning?" Sibal said.

Sibal refers to the alleged haste by which President’s rule was revoked and new government was formed in Maharashtra. He said that it has has never been done in the history of the country. "The combine has affidavits of 154 Maharashtra MLAs supporting it, if the BJP has numbers, then they may be asked to prove their majority within 24 hours," Sibal stated.

Senior advocate AM Singhvi represented Sharad Pawar’s NCP and Congress in the Supreme Court.

"It’s fraud of the worst kind. Did a single NCP MLA tell Ajit Pawar that he supported him to go with BJP," the NCP told the Supreme Court. They also stated that they were referring to the affidavits of 154 Maharashtra MLAs to shock the Court’s conscience that the majority was with them.

"Both sides agree that the floor test is ultimate, BJP does not want it quickly," said Singhvi.

The Supreme Court has also asked Singhvi to withdraw the fresh plea with affidavits of 154 Maha MLAs supporting the combine as it has not been supplied to the BJP. The apex court said, "Whatever you file in court, you need to give to other side."

Singhvi has sought for an immediate floor test. He said, "If the BJP has a majority, why is it worried? I am happy to lose on the floor of the Maharashtra Assembly."

Constitutional provisions

Rohatgi made references to the constitutional provisions and said that the procedures of the assembly, like pro-tem speaker, cannot be interfered with. He added that the Shiv Sena, NCP and the Congress are asking the apex court to decide how governor and Assembly should act. "The Court cannot interfere with the House procedure, which is regulated by the Assembly rules," Rohatgi stated.

"The parties are seeking direction to the governor, who is immune, to act as per their wishes," said the BJP.

Published on November 25, 2019

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