SC refuses to stop Election Commission from deciding on the real Shiv Sena
In a big setback to Uddhav Thackeray, the Supreme Court on Tuesday allowed the Election Commission to go ahead with the hearing of Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde group’s plea seeking recognition as the real Shiv Sena and allocation of the party’s bow-and-arrow poll symbol to it. Justice D Y Chandrachud, heading a constitution bench, rejected the plea of the Uddhav Thackeray-led faction seeking to restrain the EC from deciding the state’s ruling Shinde camp’s claim over the “original” Shiv Sena.
“We direct that there would be no stay of the proceedings before the Election Commission,” the bench also comprising Justices M R Shah, Krishna Murari, Hima Kohli, and P S Narasimha said. Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for the Thackeray faction, challenged Shinde’s locus to approach the poll panel seeking claim over the party and its election symbol. Sibal argued that Election Symbol Order can be invoked only when the claimant belongs to the same political party but claims to be of a rival group.
“I am saying Shinde is no longer in the party and membership has been given up. How does the EC hear him then? Sibal said, referring to the disqualification notice issued against Shinde and some other Shiv Sena MLAs who had rebelled against then Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray in June this year. Senior advocate Arvind Datar, appearing for the poll panel, said the Election commission is free to decide who constitutes the aspect of majority.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for Maharashtra Governor B S Koshiyari, contended the Election Commission is only deciding which faction is the “real” party and so it should be allowed to proceed with Shinde’s plea. Shinde group’s counsel and senior advocate N K Kaul submitted an election symbol is not the property of an MLA and to which faction it belongs has to be decided by the Election Commission, asserting the poll panel cannot be prevented from taking any decision on the issue.
The bench was hearing pending cases related to the political crisis in Maharashtra that began with the Shinde group’s revolt against Uddhav Thackeray’s leadership which led to the fall of the three-party Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) Government in the state. Shiv Sena break up had resulted in a slew of petitions getting filed in the Supreme Court by the rival factions, and the apex court referred those to a five-judge bench on August 23, saying the conflict had raised several constitutional questions related to defection, merger, and disqualification. It had asked the EC not to pass any orders on the Shinde faction’s plea that it be considered the “real” Shiv Sena and granted the party’s poll symbol, the bar which was lifted on Tuesday.
Though the Shinde faction has formed a coalition government with the BJP in Maharashtra and enjoys the support of an overwhelming majority of MLAs who had won on Shiv Sena tickets, the Election Commission cannot recognize it as the original party simply on that basis.
The EC will have to consider the support each faction enjoys in the party’s legislative and organizational wings. In such cases, the poll panel also goes through the party constitution and the list of office bearers submitted to it by the party when it was united.
Meanwhile, Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Rajiv Kumar on Tuesday evening said the Election Commission of India will apply the transparent process of the “rule of the majority” in the Shiv Sena split issue. He was reacting to the questions from media on the SC order allowing the Election Commission to decide on the Shiv Sena claims by the Shinde faction.
The CEC said the poll body has a transparent process of the “rule of the majority” in place and will apply the same when looking into the case. “There is a set procedure. That procedure mandates us and we define it in terms of a very transparent process by judging and applying the ‘rule of majority’. We will apply the ‘rule of majority’ whenever we are looking at it. This will be done after reading the exact decision (of SC),” the CEC said when asked about the apex court’s order.
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