Ex-Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray slammed Speaker Rahul Narwekar Tuesday, and his Shiv Sena (UBT) moved the Supreme Court (again), after visuals of the latter’s weekend meeting with Chief Minister Eknath Shinde at his official residence went viral. The two also met in October.
The conduct of the Speaker – who on Wednesday will rule on petitions filed by rival factions of the Sena, one led by Mr Thackeray and the other by Mr Shinde, each seeking disqualification of MLAs from the other side – was criticised, particularly since one petition is against the Chief Minister.
In an affidavit filed in the Supreme Court, the Sena (UBT) group said it was “improper” of Mr Narwekar to meet Mr Shinde three days before his verdict on the disqualification petitions.
“How can the ‘judge’ in any case meet one of the parties (in private) before giving the judgement?” the Uddhav Thackeray camp asked the court, adding, “It is highly inappropriate…”
“Under the Tenth Schedule, the Speaker, as adjudicating authority must act in a fair and impartial manner. Speaker’s conduct must inspire confidence… however, his current actions raise questions about the fairness and impartiality of decision-making process,” the Sena (UBT) group said.
The Shinde faction of the Shiv Sena responded via spokesperson Sanjay Shirsat, who told NDTV there was no reason why Mr Shinde and Mr Narwekar could not meet. “He is the Chief Minister… there is no 302 case (referring to the IPC section invoked in murder cases)… anyone can meet him.”
Rahul Narwekar’s ruling on the disqualification petitions – expected at 4 pm on Wednesday – will add another chapter to the political crisis in Maharashtra, which began in June last year after Mr Shinde and a bunch of MLAs defected to the BJP, bringing down the Uddhav Thackeray-led government.
Mr Narwekar had been given a December 31 deadline by the Supreme Court to announce his verdict on the petitions, but shortly before that date the Speaker’s office wrangled a 10-day extension, claiming “lakhs of pages of documents” still had to be read and analysed before a final decision.
The court had warned Mr Narwekar – who initially sought time till February 29, months before the state holds another Assembly election – against continuing to stall this matter, particularly since it had told him, on May 11 of last year, to rule on the various petitions within a “reasonable time”.
Cross-petitions – 34 of them – have been filed by the Thackeray and Shinde factions of the Shiv Sena, as well as Sharad Pawar’s NCP, demanding the disqualification of 56 Maharashtra lawmakers.
With input from agencies
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