New Delhi: Even two days after a petition on the political circus got an urgent hearing from the apex court on Sunday, Maharashtra is none the wiser about what fate awaits it.
On the second day of the hearing on the petition of Shiv Sena combo, which has challenged the invitation to Devendra Fadnavis to form a government, the Supreme Court on Monday reserved its verdict for Tuesday at 10.30 am.
A special bench comprising Justices N. V. Ramana, Ashok Bhushan and Sanjeev Khanna gave an audience to all sides for 80 minutes on the conduct of the floor test in the Assembly, to decide who has the majority. All parties have agreed to such a test.
"Tomorrow 10.30 AM, we will pass orders," Justice Ramana, who heads the Bench, announced. The order is expected to decide the contours and timing of the floor test.
But the dispute is not only about the timing of the floor test; the court also has to answer the Centre's objection that it has no jurisdiction to direct the Governor to conduct the floor test within a specific time limit.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Governor's secretary since the Governor can't be answerable to the court, said as per the court's directive on Sunday, he has brought the letter of Fadnavis staking claim, that of Deputy CM Ajit Pawar backing the claim, and the Governor's invite.
Passing on to the court Ajit Pawar's original letter to the governor, Mehta pointed out that the letterhead clearly says he is the head of the NCP legislature party and enjoys support of all the 54 NCP MLAs.
Mehta read out Pawar's letter which said he was asked earlier, too, to join the BJP to form the government, but he had then declined because of insufficient support from NCP MLAs.
Mehta said it was on the basis of this and the letter of Fadnavis that the Governor extended the invite. There was no reason to disbelieve Pawar and the Governor does not have to conduct a roving and fishing inquiry before inviting Fadnavis to form the government.
When Justice Ashok Bhushan pointed out that the MLAs’ signatures don't say they are extending support to anyone, It was turn of Chief Minister's lawyer Mukul Rohtagi, a former attorney general," to state that the NCP letter shows support and signatures are in the form of the annexure.
Senior advocate Maninder Singh told the court on behalf of Ajit Pawar: "I was authorised by the MLAs. The writ petition makes it clear I am the NCP. There is nothing to the contrary, even on this day. Nobody has challenged that."
He argued that "if there was nothing legally wrong with these letters, nothing survives in the Sena-NCP-Congress petition. SC must say we will not allow leapfrogging and ask them to approach High Court."
Claiming that the entire NCP has shifted sides, Tushar Mehta said: "It's a case where the entire stable has run away."
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for Shiv Sena, retorted: "I don't want to get into polemics. All I will say is that this is a case where the jockey has run away and horses are still there."
The moot question, he said, is that the governor, who waited for almost a month, did not wait for 24 hours more. "What was the national emergency to revoke President's rule in the morning and swear in Fadnavis other than to pre-empt the alliance of Sena-NCP-Congress," he asked.