The Supreme Court's decision to entertain a petition from the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) faction led by Sharad Pawar has added a new dimension to the ongoing political drama in Maharashtra.
The petition seeks directives to the Maharashtra assembly speaker for a timely resolution of disqualification petitions pending against a group of rebel legislators, including Maharashtra's deputy Chief Minister, Ajit Pawar.
As per a report by Hindustan Times, the Supreme Court has scheduled the hearing for 13 October, marking a crucial development in the state's political landscape.
Chief Justice of India, DY Chandrachud, acknowledged that this petition should be heard alongside a similar plea demanding swift adjudication of disqualification petitions against Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and the MLAs who supported him during the rebellion against Uddhav Thackeray in June last year.
Furthermore, the NCP, led by Sharad Pawar, has approached the Supreme Court, seeking directives for action against rebel MLAs.
The bench, composed of Chief Justice Chandrachud, along with Justices JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra, has chosen to consolidate both the current petition and the previously pending one, recognizing their shared subject matter and similar requests.
Notably, they had previously urged the Speaker to establish a clear timeline for resolution.
Senior advocates Abhishek Manu Singhvi and Kapil Sibal, representing the Sharad Pawar camp, expressed concerns over the delay in addressing their initial disqualification petition filed on 2 July.
In response, senior advocate mukul rohatgi, representing the Ajit Pawar faction, countered the plea, arguing that the petition was misleading because a more recent disqualification petition was filed in early September.
The July disqualification petitions stemmed from the Sharad Pawar-led camp and targeted 40 MLAs for alleged anti-party activities after Ajit Pawar's defection from the NCP to join the state's coalition government as deputy chief minister.
The roots of these political conflicts trace back to last year when Eknath Shinde, accompanied by a group of rebel MLAs, caused a division within the Shiv Sena, culminating in Uddhav Thackeray's resignation as Chief Minister.
On 18 September, the Supreme Court issued an order expediting the adjudication of disqualification petitions against Eknath Shinde and the supporting MLAs from the 2022 rebellion.
The court directed Speaker Rahul Narwekar to commence hearings within a week and establish a clear timeline for decision-making.
Expressing dissatisfaction with the slow progress in resolving these disqualification petitions, the bench emphasized the Speaker's responsibility to uphold the dignity of the Supreme Court and deliver swift, impartial judgments.
Presently, there are 39 disqualification petitions filed by the Thackeray faction against Eknath Shinde and the supporting MLAs under the anti-defection law.
Additionally, there are over a dozen pending disqualification petitions against MLAs of the Thackeray group.
On 24 September, Jayant Patil submitted a petition to the Supreme Court expressing dissatisfaction with Narwekar's handling of the disqualification petitions, alleging deliberate delays in the past three months.
Adding to the complexity, the Election Commission of India (ECI) is set to hold a second hearing regarding a petition filed by the Ajit Pawar faction on Monday (9 October).
Nayan Dwivedi is Staff Writer at Swarajya.
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