After SC rap, Maharashtra Speaker says hearing next week on disqualification pleas filed by rival Shiv Sena factions

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Maharashtra Speaker Rahul Narwekar. FIle photo

Maharashtra Speaker Rahul Narwekar. FIle photo
| Photo Credit: EMMANUAL YOGINI

Even as Maharashtra Assembly Speaker Rahul Narwekar on Friday said that the next hearing on the disqualification petitions filed by both the rival Shiv Sena factions led by Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and Sena (UBT) chief Uddhav Thackeray was slated for early next week, the Thackeray faction accused Mr. Narwekar of dragging his feet on the issue in a bid to save Mr. Shinde’s chair.

Earlier this week, the Supreme Court had rebuked Mr. Narwekar for delaying the adjudication, while directing him to announce within a week the date for the ruling on the disqualification petitions filed by the Sena factions. The SC had observed that nothing had been done thus far despite the SC’s direction to the Maharashtra Speaker to decide the pleas within a reasonable time.

Mr. Narwekar, who had visited Delhi on Thursday, said in Mumbai on Friday that his Delhi visit had been pre-planned.

“The SC has directed us to take up the next hearing within a week. Anyway, the hearing was slated next week. If needed, we will summon the chiefs of both parties [Mr. Shinde and Mr. Thackeray],” he said.

The Speaker further said that during his Delhi visit, he held meetings with legal experts to discuss how best to adjudicate on the matter.

Mr. Narwekar again reiterated he would neither hurry nor inordinately delay the ruling.

However, Mr. Narwekar’s visit to the Capital has drawn flak from the Sena (UBT), with Thackeray confidante Sanjay Raut remarking the Speaker visit to Delhi was “worrisome”.

“If the Assembly Speaker had to come to the BJP headquarters in Delhi to take a decision regarding the disqualification petition, then it validates the doubts we have been harbouring thus far. Mr. Narwekar, by dragging his feet on the issue, has only served to complicate this constitutional entanglement. Despite the clear verdict of the Supreme Court, the Speaker has delayed adjudicating on the matter,” said Mr. Raut.

On May 11, the Supreme Court had ruled that Mr. Shinde will continue to be the Chief Minister of Maharashtra while stating it could not reinstate the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) coalition government headed by Mr. Thackeray as the latter chose to resign without facing a floor test in the wake of Shinde’s rebellion.

However, the SC judgment had questioned the then Governor B.S. Koshyari’s action of calling for a floor test in order to solve an intra-party dispute. It also held that the appointment of Bharat Gogawale (of the Shinde faction) as the whip of the Sena was illegal.

In July, Mr. Narwekar had issued notices to 40 MLAs of the Shinde-led Sena and 14 legislators of the Thackeray faction, seeking their replies on disqualification petitions filed against them.

It was only on September 14 that the first hearing on the disqualification petitions finally got under way.

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