The Supreme Court on Tuesday passed an interim order to conduct a floor test in the Maharashtra Assembly on Wednesday after considering the competing claims of the parties, days after BJP's Devendra Fadnavis took oath as the state's Chief Minister nixing Shiv Sena-Congress-NCP's bid to form a government. The floor test will be concluded by 5 pm tomorrow and will be conducted by Protem Speaker after he administers oath to MLAs.
The top court ordered that the proceedings of Maharashtra floor test will be conducted via open ballot by the pro-tem Speaker. "Rest of the issues will be taken up after eight weeks," said apex court.
The three-judge bench, headed by Justice NV Ramana and comprising Justices Sanjiv Khanna and Ashok Bhushan, read the pronouncement of the judgement. The top court said that there will be no secret ballot. The apex court ruled that the oath for MLAs must be concluded by 5 pm, following which the floor test should be conducted.
Supreme Court said: In a situation wherein, if the floor test is delayed, there is a possibility of horse trading, it becomes incumbent upon the Court to act to protect democratic values. An immediate floor test, in such a case, might be the most effective mechanism to do so.
The apex court ruled that the Senior most MLA of the House will be nominated as the Protem speaker.
Probable candidates for post of pro tem Speaker
1) Balasaheb Thorat, Congress MLA
2) Kalidas Kalamkar, BJP MLA from Mumbai
3) KC Padavi, Congress
4) Hitendra Thakur, Bahujan Vikas Aghadi
5) Dilip Valse Patil, NCP member and Former Speaker
6) Baban Pachpute, BJP MLA
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal appearing for Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress alliance, mentioned before the apex court an application seeking directions to restrain the Devendra Fadnavis government from taking important policy decisions.
The court said it is necessary to pass an interim order for the floor test to determine majority in Maharashtra, which is essential to uphold democratic values and the citizens' right to good governance.
The court observed that there is a need to respect the separation of jurisdictions of the legislature and courts and the latter's intervention should only be as the last resort. Justice Ramana said, "This is one such case."
In the meantime, welcoming the court's judgement, NCP leader Nawab Malik, said, "Today's verdict of the SC is a milestone in Indian democracy. Before 5 pm tomorrow, it will be clear that BJP's game is over. In a few days, there will a govt of Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress in Maharashtra."
Earlier, in an unprecedented hearing on Sunday on the brewing political drama in Maharashtra, the Supreme Court had asked the Solicitor General to produce letters of support, used by Fadnavis in staking claim to form the government, on Monday morning at 10.30 a.m. for passing orders.
The court had said it will decide on taking the call, prayers in the petition of Shiv Sena, Congress and NCP, on immediate floor test after examining the Governor's order inviting Fadnavis to form the government in the state.
The BJP and Shiv Sena had fought the Maharashtra Assembly election as an alliance but parted ways after the results were announced over sharing the chief ministerial post. As the parties reached an impasse, Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress came together to stake claim. However, in a surprise move on Saturday, Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari swore-in Devendra Fadnavis and Ajit Pawar as the chief minister and the deputy chief minister respectively.