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Constitution Bench Verdict in Shiv Sena Case

GS Paper 2

 Syllabus: Functions and Responsibilities of the Union and the States, Issues and Challenges Pertaining to the Federal Structure

 

Source: IE, The Wire

Context: The Supreme Court of India has passed a unanimous verdict on various issues related to the split in Shiv Sena in June 2022.

Background of the issue:

In 2019, Uddhav Thackeray became the Chief Minister of Maharashtra leading the MVA alliance. In 2022, Eknath Shinde and other MLAs went missing, claiming no confidence in the MVA alliance and Thackeray. The Thackeray group initiated disqualification proceedings against them, and Mr Shinde moved the Supreme Court to dispute it. The Governor directed a floor test to see if Thackeray’s government still had support, and Uddhav Thackeray resigned without facing it. Later, the Election Commission of India allotted the name Shiv Sena and party symbol to Shinde’s faction, and Thackeray’s side argued that they must be disqualified as their actions amounted to defection.

 

Key observations by Supreme Court in the Maharashtra verdict:

Observation Explanation
Appointment of whip Speaker must recognise the whip and leader authorised by the political party, based on the party constitution, after conducting an inquiry.

 

The power to appoint a whip and a leader rests with the “political party” and not the “legislature party,” as stated in the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution.

Legislative wing vs political party Allowing the legislative wing to act independently from the political party contradicts the constitutional system of governance.
Disqualification procedure Disqualification ought to be decided as per established procedures in law and the Speaker is the appropriate authority for this under the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution, which lays down the anti-defection law.

 

While deciding disqualification pleas, the Speaker must consider the constitution of the political party (as submitted to ECI)

Pending disqualification petitions The Speaker should decide on pending disqualification petitions in a reasonable timeframe.

 

MLAs have the right to participate in proceedings of the House regardless of the pendency of any petitions for disqualification.

Floor test A floor test is to be conducted by the Governor only on obtaining objective material to show that the incumbent government had lost the confidence of the House.
Governor’s role Then Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari was not justified in calling for a floor test on June 30, 2022, as he did not have objective material to show that the incumbent government had lost the confidence of the House.

 

The Governor is not empowered to enter the political arena and play a role in inter or intra-party disputes.

Restoration of the Uddhav government The Thackeray group had sought to restore the situation prior to June 29, 2022, but the Supreme Court ruled that it cannot reinstate the Uddhav government as he had resigned and not faced the floor test.

 Significance of the judgement: It upholds the principles of constitutional morality and the integrity of the democratic process.

 

Terms Used:

“Political party” Vs “Legislature party”:

While a political party is an organization of people with common political goals and ideologies, e.g., BJP, Congress; a legislature party is a group of elected representatives of the same political party who coordinate their legislative activities and strategy in the legislature. E.g., elected representatives of BJP in Lok Sabha forms the “legislature party” of BJP in Lok Sabha.

 

What is a Whip?

A whip is a party official in charge of ensuring that party members vote in accordance with the party’s position on a particular issue. The concept originated from British Parliament. All parties can issue whips to their members. Parties appoint a senior member from among their House contingents to issue whips — this member is called a chief whip, and he/ she is assisted by additional whips

 

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Mains Links 

Examine why the anti-defection law has been ineffective, even counterproductive in preventing defections. How can this situation be rectified? (250 Words)