Disqualification hearings for camps resume, early resolution not in sight
Shiv Sena (UBT) chief Uddhav Thackeray. Pic/ PTI; (right) Maharashtra CM Eknath Shinde. Pic/Ashish Raje
The hearing of disqualification pleas by the two Shiv Sena factions resumed after a long break before the Maharashtra Assembly Speaker Rahul Narvekar, who, after listening to both sides, kept the next hearing on October 13.
The lengthy process, which took off again after the Supreme Court’s rap is expected to take months, thus diminishing the hopes of an early decision over the matter that had come up after the Sena split last year. The Eknath Shinde group had joined hands with the BJP to topple the Uddhav Thackeray government. The Election Commission of India has given the Shinde faction the party’s name and election symbol. Later the Supreme Court asked the speaker to decide on the pleas in a reasonable time.
A year later, a section of the Nationalist Congress Party joined the Shinde government under the leadership of Ajit Pawar. Their case is also headed the Sena way before the Election Commission. The Uddhav Thackeray faction had asked to disqualify the Shinde faction’s 16 (and another 24) MLAs, including CM Shinde, for dishonouring the party whip during the break-up. The rival group had countered the move by making their own pleas.
The Sena MLAs in question were not present on Monday because they had already appeared before the speaker in the last hearing. Their respective lawyers represented them, making an argument that was somewhat similar to the one they had made before the apex court.
The Thackeray group asked the speaker to club all pleas, but the rival group demanded an individual hearing, saying that each MLA wanted to submit his/her evidence. According to the information available, the process includes verification of documents, individual appearances and their cross-examination. The process may get interrupted because of the winter session to be held in Nagpur in December. The state legislature shifts to Nagpur much before the session begins and resumes work in Mumbai after the winter sittings. Sources said the speaker was expected to roll out the schedule of the hearing in a day or two.
Advocate Devdutt Kamat, who represented the former CM`s faction, argued that all disqualification pleas be clubbed together for hearing because they pertained to the same demand. He said that such a method would save time and help a quicker verdict.
The CM faction’s lawyer Anil Sakhare opposed Kamat’s demand. He demanded individual hearings, saying that his clients wanted to present person-specific evidence and correct their respective pleas. The Thackeray faction made an additional submission on Monday, highlighting five points, one of them being the SC’s objection over the appointment of the Shinde faction`s whip. It said that the documents pertaining to the SC’s hearing and those submitted by both groups were made available to the warring factions.
Outside the legislature, a war of words resumed between the rival camps. Sena (UBT) MP Sanjay Raut demanded that the decision be expedited or else the speaker would have to suffer the consequences after the I.N.D.I.A government came to power. BJP legislator Nitish Rane threatened to file a breach of privilege against Raut for putting pressure on Narvekar, while Raut said it was the Centre that had put the speaker under pressure, not him.
Next date of hearing