The Supreme Court has issued a notice to the Centre and Maharashtra administration asking them to present before it at 10:30 AM on Monday the evidence of support of MLAs to Devendra Fadnavis and the letter of Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari inviting the BJP to form the State government.
India had woken up on Saturday, surprised by the turn of events in Maharashtra where, while the Shiv Sena, NCP and INC had been holding parleys for days on end, BJP’s Fadnavis and NCP’s Ajit Pawar was invited by the governor to swear in. Later, Sharad Pawar held a meeting of NCP MLAs where Ajit Pawar was removed as the head of the legislative party.
After hearing the arguments of advocates Kapil Sibal, Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who appeared for the INC, and lawyer Mukul Rohatgi, who appeared for the BJP, the Supreme Court has now deferred the hearing till tomorrow.
While the court did not issue its verdict in the case, it rejected the demand that Fadnavis should be given more time to prove he has the support of the majority.
Earlier during the hearing, the Supreme Court asked when the letter of support was given. Justice Ramanna asked Congress lawyer Sibal whether he had a copy of the document shown to the governor. Sibal said he didn’t, but added, “If BJP has the majority, they must prove it.”
Solicitor-General Tushar Mehta has been asked to show support letters of Fadnavis and Ajit Pawar by 10:30 AM on Monday. The court has sought the governor’s order from the central government.
Rohatgi challenged Sibal, saying let the pro-tem speaker take oath on Monday in the Maharashtra Assembly, followed by the MLAs’ swearing-in and then the brief speech of the governor; only then could there be a floor test. Rohatgi said the Assembly (legislature) honoured the court (judiciary) and the court honoured the Assembly. “This is the truth. Otherwise, the Assembly could pass a resolution tomorrow that the Supreme Court ought to settle all the cases in two years,” the lawyer for the BJP said.
Rohatgi argued that two to three days should be given during which all affidavits would be placed before the court. He said in the court that the governor enjoyed immunity from court intervention. Koshyari exercised the power the Constitution gives him, Rohatgi argued. “Now there will be a floor test,” he said.
Justice Ramanna said but the law was set for everything. The rules are set as well, he said.
Rohatgi said now the question was what the court should do and what it can do. On this, Justice Bhushan said, “We do not even know what, and how, under which process!”
Rohatgi asked what was the need to disturb people on a Sunday, as it is not a day when the Supreme Court is normally open.
Even senior advocate and constitution expert Sanjay Hegde, who does not generally hold a favourable opinion about the BJP, said in a conversation with a television news channel that the match was still on and the result cannot be known before tomorrow.
The court will rule on the issue only after looking at all the letters. Hegde said that the decision of the Maharashtra governor could be called unfair but not illegal. He said that the floor test could not be postponed for long. It may not happen immediately but it may happen soon. He said that Ajit Pawar was no longer the leader of the NCP and so does not have the right to issue a whip. The name of the new leader has been announced. There are no two opinions on this.