SC orders floor test in Maharashtra Assembly on Nov 27

Representative image. (PTI photo)

The Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered to conduct floor test on November 27 in Maharashtra Assembly, amid the ongoing political drama after swift swearing in ceremony of BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis as Chief Minister and NCP leader Ajit Pawar as Deputy Chief Minister on Saturday (November 23) morning.

A bench of Justices N V Ramana, Ashok Bhushan and Sanjiv Khanna said it is necessary and expedient to conduct the floor test as soon as possible to determine whether the Chief Minister, who was administered the oath of office, has the support of the majority or not.

The court asked the Governor's office to appoint a Pro-Tem Speaker, who will conduct the floor test on Wednesday.

Also read — Who will be Pro-Tem Speaker in Maharashtra? 

The court noted that oath has not been administered to the elected members even though a month has elapsed since October 24, when the election results of Assembly were declared.

"In such emergent facts and circumstances, to curtail unlawful practices such as horse trading, to avoid uncertainty and to effectuate smooth running of democracy by ensuring a stable government, we are of the considered opinion that it is necessary to pass certain interim directions in this case," the bench said. 

The court spelt out the procedure to be followed for conducting the floor test:

1) Pro-Tem Speaker to be appointed for the agenda immediately. 

2) All the elected members shall take oath on November 27 and all exercise should be completed before 5:00 pm.

3) Immediately thereafter, the Pro-Tem Speaker shall conduct the floor test in order to ascertain whether Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has the majority. The floor test will not be conducted by a secret ballot.

4) The proceedings have to be live telecast.

The top court relied upon past instances related to G Parmeshwara case (2018) of Karnataka, Chandrakant Kavlekar (2017) of Goa, Harish C Rawat case of Uttarakhand (2016), Jagdambika Pal case (1999) of Uttar Pradesh and the Constitution bench judgement in the S R Bommai case, among others, to pass its order.

Hours after oath taking, a joint petition was filed on Saturday by Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress combine, questioning Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari's decision to invite Fadnavis to take over as the chief minister and Ajit Pawar as the deputy chief minister, citing it as 'unconstitutional.'

 

The Fadnavis-Ajit Pawar side, for their part, said the top court should not intervene into the matter but at the same time, it maintained that floor test was imperative.

In the matter, the top court held a special sitting on Sunday and subsequently heard arguments on Monday. It had reserved its judgement on plea for conducting the floor test, even as the three parties combine claimed support of 162 MLAs.

Pronouncing the judgement, Justice Ramana said, "There is no gainsaying that the boundaries between the jurisdiction of courts and Parliamentary independence have been contested for a long time. However, there is a need and requirement for recognising institutional comity and separation of powers so as to tailor judicial interference in the democratic processes only as a last resort."

This court has time and again been called upon to maintain democratic values and facilitate the fostering of the citizens’ right of good governance, the bench said.

After having undergone the facts by both the sides and heard the parties on maintainability of the petition, extent of judicial review, the bench said that they feel the floor test should be held on November 27.

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