Why did Uddhav not face trust vote: SC

New Delhi : Uddhav Thackeray’s decision to resign as chief minister even before the trust vote could take place precluded a clear-cut conclusion on how the Eknath Shinde faction would have impacted the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government on the floor of the House, the Supreme Court observed on Thursday, adding it could be an impediment in Uddhav’s path when he impels the court to put the clock back by reinstating him as CM.

Uddhav resigned on June 29 last year, hours after the top court declined to stay the floor test scheduled to be held a day later on the directive of the Maharashtra governor.

Citing this, a Constitution bench, headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud, pointed out that the decision that Uddhav made on June 29 ruled out ascertaining how his rival faction, led by Shinde, would have acted inside the House.

“If you would have faced the trust vote and lost then it would have been clear that if the 39 people made a difference and it would show if these 39 affected the trust vote or otherwise… Did you not preclude the consideration of this possibility by not facing the trust vote?” the bench asked senior counsel Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who represented the Uddhav camp.

Singhvi, on his part, replied that after the top court refused to stay the floor test despite injuncting the then deputy speaker of the assembly to decide the disqualification petitions against the Shinde faction, the one and only foregone conclusion was to resign instead of suffering humiliation.

The bench, however, retorted: “But the flip side is if you had faced the trust vote and lost it would have been clear how these 39 people affected the proceedings. Voting pattern would then determine if these 39 affected the trust vote.”

To this, Singhvi conceded that the fact remains that Uddhav resigned, but it cannot also be lost sight of that he asked the Supreme Court to stay the trust vote too since the disqualification was already stayed.

The bench replied: “The problem still in your path is that had the trust vote taken place, the outcome would have been known…today, you are asking us to set the clock back but before a constitutional court does that, we must be in a position to see an arguable outcome which makes a difference. Whether there would be a difference or not is foreclosed by the fact that you did not face the trust vote.”

The Constitution bench was hearing a clutch of petitions arising out of the vertical split in the Shiv Sena last year and the legal issues surrounding the contours of disqualification proceedings and the powers of the governor and the speaker in their respective spheres.

When asked about the reliefs the Uddhav group is pressing for, Singhvi said that the plea is to reverse the oath taken by Shinde on July 3 as the new chief minister of the state after Uddhav was forced to resign in the wake of the rift in the party. The senior lawyer added the court should put the clock back and order a status quo ante by allowing the deputy speaker to decide the disqualification petitions against Shinde and MLAs supporting him.

The bench will continue resume the hearing of the matter on February 28. The Shinde faction is yet to argue in the matter.

The Constitution bench is seized of a batch of petitions filed by Shinde and Thackeray factions in relation to disqualification proceedings against the MLAs of both camps, election of Rahul Narwekar as the new Speaker, recognition of a new party whip for Shiv Sena, and the governor’s directive to Thackeray for proving majority on the floor of the House and subsequently inviting Shinde to form the new government in the state.

Shinde and a bunch of Shiv Sena legislators supporting him broke away from the Uddhav faction in June last year. With the future of the Shiv Sena-led MVA government in Maharashtra at stake, the then deputy speaker asked the rebels to respond to a disqualification notice from the party (there was no Speaker of the house at the time). However, ahead of this, a petition was already filed by some of the rebel MLAs seeking the deputy speaker’s removal. Citing the precedence of a 2016 case, the court, on June 27, asked the deputy speaker to give the legislators time till July 12 to respond to the disqualification notice.

This meant they could have voted against the government in a confidence vote called by the governor on June 30. Seemingly left with no option, Thackeray resigned as CM ahead of the trust vote and Shinde and his MLAs, supported by the BJP, formed an alliance government.

In the current proceedings, the 2016 judgment relied upon by the court in June last year has been sought to be reviewed by the Uddhav camp. The court has said it can decide whether to ask a seven-judge bench to review that jurisprudence only after examining arguments in the ongoing case.