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Maharashtra Political Crisis: SC allows ECI to decide the issue on claim of ‘real’ Shiv Sena

The Supreme Court on Tuesday allowed the Election Commission of India to decide which faction between Uddhav Thackeray and Chief Minister Eknath Shinde be recognised as the ‘real’ Shiv Sena party and allotment of the bow and arrow symbol.

A five-judge Constitution bench headed by Justice DY Chandrachud declined to stay the proceedings before the Election Commission on Shinde group’s claim for recognition as ‘real’ Shiv Sena.

The bench also comprising Justices MR Shah, Krishna Murari, Hima Kohli and PS Narasimha rejected the plea of Uddhav Thackeray group seeking stay on proceedings before the Election Commission till the Supreme Court decides the main issue pending before it.

“We direct that there would be no stay of the proceedings before the Election Commission of India. Accordingly, the Interlocutory Application is dismissed,” the bench stated in its order after a day-long hearing.

Earlier, the apex court had orally asked the poll panel to not take any precipitative action on the issue.

Thackeray group had filed an application before the top court seeking direction to restrain the Election Commission from deciding the claim raised by Shinde faction for recognition as the official Shiv Sena party.

During the hearing, Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for the Thackeray group, argued that Shinde has incurred disqualification as his various acts amount to voluntary giving up of the party membership under Paragraph 2(1)(a) of the Tenth Schedule and also he has violated the party whip as per.

He said that allowing the Election Commission to decide Shinde’s claim can result in “irreparable damage” to the Thackeray group.

Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi also appearing for Thackeray camp contended that “In whatever form the Shiv Sena exists today, they have no claim that they have merged with the BJP. You (Shinde group) have left the Shiv Sena, but you want the goodwill of Shiv Sena, so you won’t merge.”

Senior advocate Neeraj Kishan Kaul, appearing for the Shinde group, claimed that over 1.5 lakh party members have sent their representations to the Election Commission supporting the Shinde group.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Maharashtra Governor, told the bench that the Election Commission should be allowed to discharge its duties.

He said, “This is a political question and it is not the first time that such a split has happened and to decide which faction is the real party. It is the election commission which is equipped to look into this.”

The top court is seized of several petitions filed by rival groups of Shiv Sena in relation to the Maharashtra political crisis.

In August, the top court’s three-judge bench had referred to a five-judge Constitution bench the issues involved in the petition filed by rival groups of Shiv Sena in relation to the Maharashtra political crisis.

Earlier, the Supreme Court three-judge bench had said that some of the issues involved in the Maharashtra political crisis may require a larger Constitutional bench for consideration.

It had also asked the Speaker of the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly, Rahul Narwekar not to take any action on the new disqualification notices issued against the members of Shiv Sena.

There are various petitions pending before the apex court filed by both the factions of Shiv Sena.

Thackeray-led faction approached the top court challenging the Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshiyari’s decision to invite Eknath Shinde to form the government and the Speaker’s election and floor test. Later, they challenged Shinde group approaching poll panel claiming they are ‘real’ Shiv Sena.

They had also challenged the newly appointed Maharashtra Assembly Speaker’s action recognising the whip of Eknath Shinde group as the whip of Shiv Sena. The plea said newly appointed Speaker has no jurisdiction to recognise whips nominated by Shinde as Uddhav Thackeray is still the head of Shiv Sena official party.

Thackeray camp’s Sunil Prabhu had filed plea seeking suspension from Maharashtra Assembly of new Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and 15 rebel MLAs against whom disqualification pleas are pending.

Shinde group’s challenged the disqualification notices issued by the Deputy Speaker to 16 rebel MLAs as well as appointment of Ajay Choudhary as Shiv Sena Legislature Party leader, is also pending before the apex court.

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