Assembly Speaker Rahul Narwekar, who has been asked by the Supreme Court to decide on the case, prepares schedule for arguments, cross-examination and final arguments
Rahul Narwekar at the Vidhan Bhavan. File pic
Maharashtra Assembly speaker Rahul Narwekar has scheduled the hearing for the disqualification case of Shiv Sena MLAs between the first week of October and the last week of November. The submissions will start on October 6, the day Narwekar ends his official tour of Ghana, where he is participating in the Commonwealth Parliamentary Convention.
The final argument has been scheduled after cross-examination by both sides, which begins on November 23. The cross-examination will take place twice a week. The date of the final argument will be two weeks after the cross-examination is over (most probably in December). The entire schedule is subject to change in case of holidays and requests from the parties for adjournment.
Considering the lengthy process, an early outcome in the case is unlikely. On October 13, both sides will argue on clubbing all petitions together. While the Shiv Sena (UBT) is for this, Shinde’s faction is against it. Both sides will be allowed to verify official documents between October 13 and 20. Narwekar will give his verdict in the matter of clubbing the pleas on October 20. Seven days later, arguments for the documents for admission and rejection will be heard. November 6, 10 and 20 have been reserved for written submissions, exchange of documents between the two factions, arguments for decisive points, and filing of affidavits.
The lawyers of both sides are to begin cross-examinations on November 23. They will be given dates as per their convenience, twice a week. till the process lasts. If everything goes well, the cross-examination will begin in December, the month for the winter session when the entire legislature shifts to Nagpur. Narwekar said the decisions would not be taken in haste, and at the same time, the petitions would be heard without any delay. “The Supreme Court will be respected. The schedule has been given to all parties concerned,” he said.
Sena (UBT)’s objection
Maintaining its earlier argument, the Shiv Sena (UBT) objected to the schedule as a delaying tactic. Party leader Anil Parab said the delay would amount to a denial of justice. He said the schedule was likely to get affected by the Nagpur winter session in December. “The Speaker did nothing for four months. The new schedule will also be an exercise to prolong the decision,” he said, adding that an official objection would be submitted to the Speaker on the next date of hearing.
The Maharashtra Legislature is expected to submit the schedule to the Supreme Court which had asked the Speaker to decide on the petitions within a reasonable time. The case pertains to the Shiv Sena (UBT)’s demand for the disqualification of 16 MLAs for defying the party whip. The MLAs had sided with Eknath Shinde, who broke away from Thackeray in June 2022 to join hands with the BJP. Another 24 MLAs joined him before the new government was formed. The Election Commission of India had ratified the Shinde faction as the original Shiv Sena and allotted it the original party name and election symbol of bow and arrow.
The SC heard the case for about 10 months before asking the Speaker to decide the case. The apex court had made certain observations and noted some findings that the Thackeray group has been seeing as an advantage in the case. The Shinde faction had filed petitions to counter the rival group.