New Delhi: The Supreme Court Thursday observed verbally that it cannot reinstate the Uddhav Thackeray-led Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government in Maharashtra because the former chief minister had resigned from the post, and was not ousted from power.
A Constitution Bench led by Chief Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, hearing the disputes arising from the political imbroglio that gripped Maharashtra last year, further said that even if it faults the governor for calling the trust vote, the court may still not be able to reinstate the previous government led by Shiv Sena (UBT) leader Thackeray.
The bench made the remarks when senior advocate A.M. Singhvi, appearing for the Thackeray faction, urged it to restore the status quo ante.
“It would have been a logical thing to do provided you had lost the trust vote on the floor of the assembly. Then clearly you have been ousted from power because of a trust vote which has been set aside. Our problem is, look at the intellectual conundrum. It is not that you have been ousted from power as a result of a trust vote which was wrongly summoned by the governor. You chose not to, for whatever reason, you didn’t want to face a trust vote…,” CJI Chandrachud told Singhvi.
The bench then reserved its verdict on the set of petitions filed by the Thackeray camp as well as the faction of the Shiv Sena led by Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde.
According to the CJI, re-appointing Thackeray would amount to restoring a government which had accepted that it was a minority in the state legislature. “How can the court reinstate a chief minister who did not even face the floor test,” the bench wondered.
Asked if Thackeray stepped down because he was asked to face the trust vote, Singhvi replied in the affirmative. The senior counsel recalled that Thackeray first filed a petition in the SC and resigned only after the top court gave a go-ahead to the trust vote.
In a situation where the governor “illegally” called for a trust vote, Thackeray’s participation or absence would not have diluted the fundamental illegality, Singhvi submitted. He added Thackeray knew the consequences of the “illegal act” (trust vote) and, therefore, resigned.
The Thackeray camp was also quizzed on its contention that the governor could not have called for a trust vote on the basis of a letter written by the Shiv Sena MLAs (of Shinde camp). It was argued on their behalf that internal party differences are not in the governor’s domain.
The court sought to know why the governor cannot look at the numbers when a group of MLAs approach saying they have withdrawn support to a leader.
“Can the governor then not look at the numbers and say assuming that these people say that they have left, whether they have incurred a disqualification will be decided by the speaker? But this conduct of these people in doing something which is contrary to the Tenth Schedule also is liable to affect the strength of the House and the strength of the party in that House. Can he (governor) not do that,” the top court asked senior advocate Kapil Sibal, who also appeared for the Thackeray faction.
In response, Sibal said that if this is allowed, the Tenth Schedule or the anti-defection law will become redundant and one would go back to the time that existed before this law was introduced in 1985.
However, the apex court felt that the government has to be accountable to and must have the faith of the House. To this, Sibal said the way out is for MLAs to vote against the finance bill in which case the government falls.
(Edited by Amrtansh Arora)