The Supreme Court has issued notices to Deputy Speaker, Secretary of Maharashtra State Legislative Assembly, Centre and others on pleas filed by rebel MLAs against the disqualification notice filed by the Deputy Speaker Narhari Zirwal against Eknath Shinde and 15 other rebel legislators.
The apex court also issued notices to Shiv Sena leaders Ajay Chaudhary, Sunil Prabhu and asked them to file a reply within five days.
Moreover, the top court has extended the time for Eknath Shinde and other rebel MLAs to file a written response to the Deputy Speaker's disqualification notice till July 12.
The top court on Monday asked the Eknath Shinde's faction, 'why they did not move the Bombay High Court' to which they responded that 'their lives were under threat and atmosphere was not conducive to pursue legal remedies in Mumbai.
A vacation comprising Justices Surya Kant and J.B. Pardiwala asked senior advocate Neeraj Kishan Kaul, representing the rebel MLAs, why they did not move the Bombay High Court.
Kaul cited threats to the lives of the rebel Shiv Sena MLAs and their families, which made the atmosphere non-conducive to pursue cases in Mumbai.
Kaul said the petitioners said that the Deputy Speaker cannot proceed with the disqualification proceedings against them, when a resolution seeking his removal was pending. He cited the decision of the apex court in the "Nabam Rebia" case (2016).
Kaul added that a minority of the legislative party was subverting the state machinery, and their houses were being attacked. Kaul said they said, "bodies will arrive and we will be slaughtered like bulls..."
The bench said there were two things -- first the alleged threats to the lives of the MLAs, which the court has no means to verify, and the second issue the lack of time given to the MLAs to respond to the disqualification notice.
The bench noted that the important overarching issue was that the Speaker or Deputy Speaker could not continue till his continuance was under doubt.
Kaul reiterated how a Deputy Speaker could proceed with the issue when his removal was in question.
The bench queried: Is the Deputy Speaker not competent to proceed when the MLAs moved for his removal, and asked Kaul, "Why can't you raise this question before the Deputy Speaker?" Kaul replied that the Deputy Speaker cannot entertain disqualification petitions at all.
The top court was hearing petitions by Eknath Shinde and the rebel MLAs of Shiv Sena challenging the disqualification notices issued by the Maharashtra Deputy Speaker to them and also the appointment of Ajay Choudhari as the Shiv Sena Legislature Party leader.
The plea said the petitioner was aggrieved by the notice/summon dated June 25, which was grossly illegal, unconstitutional and in utter disregard of the judgment of this court in the matter of Nabam Rebia & Bamang Felix Vs Deputy Speaker, Arunachal Pradesh Legislative Assembly in (2016). "That the seat of Speaker is vacant since Nana Patole resigned from office in February 2021. Thus, there is no authority who can adjudicate upon the disqualification petition under which the impugned notice has been issued to the petitioner," it added.
The rebel leaders urged the apex court to prohibit Deputy Speaker from taking any action under the Anti-Defection Law (10th Schedule of the Constitution) and issue direction against taking any action until the resolution for the removal of Deputy Speaker is decided.
(With IANS inputs)