Action Shifts to SC After Day of Twists and Turns, Sena-Cong-NCP Petition Seeking Urgent Floor Test to be Heard Today
File photo of the Supreme Court.
The petition sought that the court issue directions to summon a special session of the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly with the only agenda of administering oath to the MLAs, immediately followed by the holding of a floor test on Sunday.
New Delhi: The Shiv Sena, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Congress on Saturday filed a petition in the Supreme Court against the "arbitrary and malafide actions/decisions" of Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari in swearing-in Devendra Fadnavis as chief minister.
The court will hear the petition at 11.30 am on Sunday. The bench will comprise Justices NV Ramana, Ashok Bhushan and Sanjiv Khanna.
The petition sought that the court issue appropriate directions to summon a special session of the 14th Maharashtra Legislative Assembly with the only agenda of administering oath to the MLAs, immediately followed by the holding of a floor test on Sunday, in order to thwart horse-trading and "illegal manoeuvres" in the state.
The three parties have sought a direction to the governor to invite them to form the government under the leadership of Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, saying they have the support of more than 144 MLAs. The petitioners alleged that the governor has acted in a "partisan manner" and has allowed himself to be a "pawn in the BJP's illegal usurpation of power".
The writ petition said it has been "filed by the petitioners assailing the ex-facie arbitrary and malafide actions/decisions dated 23.11.2019 of the Honourable Governor of the State of Maharashtra in ‘purportedly inviting’ the state BJP led by Shri Devendra Fadnavis to form the government in the state and subsequently administering him the oath of office as the chief minister of Maharashtra".
"The gross malafide, arbitrariness and illegality is writ large on the face of the impugned actions of the Honourable Governor in as much as the latter has proceed to swear in a chief minister who is well short of the majority mark of 145 in the State Assembly by 40 MLAs and had only recently, on November 10, turned down the Governor’s invitation to form a government for lack of numbers, despite having ample time to garner support for itself," it said, adding that the political alliance of the NCP-Congress with the Sena "constitutes a clear majority in the House".
"It is submitted that in these circumstances the action of the Governor in installing a minority Government is ex-facie against the basic rule of law and the rule of parliamentary democracy i.e. rule by majority," it said.
The parties further prayed for an "immediate floor test within 24 hours so as to avoid further horse trading and illegal maneuvers to somehow cobble up a majority from the MVA (Maha Vikas Aghadi)".
The action came in a day of dramatic developments in which BJP's Devendra Fadnavis returned as Chief Minister, propped up by the NCP's Ajit Pawar, who was made his deputy, just hours after the new Sena-NCP-Congress alliance reached a consensus that Thackeray will be their chief ministerial candidate.
Fadnavis and Ajit Pawar were sworn in by Koshyari at 8 am at a hush-hush ceremony in the Maharashtra capital after dramatic midnight developments, leading to the lifting of President's Rule in the state.
The opposition parties have accused Governor BS Koshyari of acting illegally, with the Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala claiming Koshyari once again proved to be BJP chief Amit Shah's "hitman".
Ajit Pawar's volte face created fissures in the NCP, whose chief Sharad Pawar distanced himself from his nephew's action and said the decision to back Fadnavis for his second consecutive term was his personal choice and not that of the party.
Later, the NCP removed Ajit Pawar from the post of the leader of its legislature group.
Koshyari's actions on the intervening night of Friday and Saturday, "culminating to swearing in on November 23 are textbook example of the governor acting at the behest of a political party in power at the Centre", said the petition.
The facts in the case demonstrate that the governor has "belittled the constitutional office and has allowed himself to be a pawn in the BJP's illegal usurpation of power", it said.
The plea said that after comprehensive talks, the three parties finalised a common minimum programme for a post-poll alliance called MVA, and on November 22, it was announced that Uddhav Thackeray would be the alliance's chief ministerial candidate.
"Facing the prospect of a non-BJP government staking claim to power, the BJP on the intervening night of November 22 and 23 resorted to political machinations in an attempt to install a completely unconstitutional BJP government in the state," it said.
The Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress combine has also filed a separate application seeking direction for summoning of a special session of the assembly for swearing-in of MLAs and a floor test.
The parties should be permitted to prove its strength on the floor of the House by holding of a composite floor test, they demanded.
"In these circumstances the action of the governor in installing a minority government is ex-facie against the basic rule of law and the rule of parliamentary democracy that is rule by majority.
"More importantly the actions of the governor are entirely malafide and for extraneous considerations without even a prima facie satisfaction based on objective material that Fadnavis has majority support of the members of the house, the application said.
It said any action of the governor in inviting a political party to form government has to be based on prima facie satisfaction and objective material which in the present case is completely conspicuous by its absence.
The governor on November 10 had turned down the invitation to form government for lack of numbers.
The application also sought direction for furnishing relevant records from the governor's office with regard to the invitation to Fadnavis to form government on Saturday, the satisfaction of the governor as to the support enjoyed by Fadnavis of a majority of MLAs in the assembly and his subsequent swearing in as the CM.
Video recording of the floor test and placing copies of the video before the court and appointing a pro-tem speaker to preside over the conduct of the floor test were also sought in the application.
(With inputs from agencies)