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Updated January 10th, 2024 at 18:32 IST

BREAKING: Shinde Faction 'Real Shiv Sena', Speaker Narwekar Rules Against Disqualifying Rebel MLAs

The verdict came after more than 18 months since the Shiv Sena suffered a vertical split.

Reported by: Moumita Mukherjee
Sena vs Sena battle
Sena vs Sena battle | Image:Republic
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Mumbai: The much-awaited crucial verdict by the Maharashtra Assembly Speaker Rahul Narwekar on the cross-petitions by Shiv Sena factions seeking disqualification of each other's MLAs following a split in the party has arrived. The Speaker has denied the petition demanding the disqualification of 16 Eknath Shinde faction MLAs. While announcing the verdict in the Shiv Sena MLAs' disqualification case, the Speaker said that constitution of Shiv Sena provided by ECI is the relevant constitution of Shiv Sena for the determination of which faction is the real political party which will be called SS Constitution. 

Trashing the petitions filed by the Uddhav Sena faction, Speaker Rahul Narwekar said that said that MLAs from Shinde faction can not be disqualified because Sunil Prabhu of UBT faction ceased to be the whip when rival faction emerged. 'He had no right to call the meeting," the Speaker noted.

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The verdict that came as a big jolt to the Uddhav Thackeray faction was announced after more than 18 months since the Shiv Sena suffered a vertical split - one faction led by Uddhav Thackeray and another led by Eknath Shinde, the now Chief Minister of the state. “There is no consensus on the constitution submitted by both the parties (two factions of Shiv Sena) to the EC. The two parties have different points of views on leadership structure. The only aspect is the majority in the legislature party. I will have to decide the relevant constitution to be taken into account to the  leadership structure that existed before the dispute,” Maharashtra Assembly Speaker Rahul Narwekar observes.

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Key points from Rahul Narwekar's verdict on Sena VS Sena battle

  •  Eknath Shinde-led faction was real Shiv Sena political party when rival factions emerged in 2022
  • Shiv Sena ‘pramukh’ does not have power to remove any leader from the party
  • The 1999 constitution is the one which was submitted to Election Commission by Shiv Sena before rival groups were born
  • "The 2018 amended constitution of Shiv Sena cannot be considered as valid as it's not in the records of the Election Commission of India. As per Supreme Court orders, I can not delve into any other factor on which the constitution is valid. As per records, I am relying on the 1999 constitution of Shiv Sena as the valid constitution." 
  • “As per the Apex court both the factions have submitted different versions of the constitution party, then in that case what has to be taken into account, the constitution which was submitted to the ECI with the consent of both parties before the rival factions emerged...Before recording further conclusion it is imperative to reiterate that pursuant to the initiation of this disqualification, the Maharashtra Legislative Secretariat had a letter dated June 7 2023, requesting the Office of ECI to provide a copy of the party constitution/memorandum/rules…”
  • "The 2018 leadership structure was not in conformity with the constitution of the Shiv Sena (of 1999 which is relied upon). This leadership structure can not be taken as the yardstick to determine which faction is a real Shiv Sena political party."
  • "The UBT faction has not placed any material on record or even suggest that any meeting of the Rashtriya Karyakarini was called for where any decision about the real political party was resolved..."
  • “In view of the evidence and records before me, prima facie indicates that no elections were held in the year 2013, as well as in the year 2018. However, I as the speaker exercising jurisdiction under the 10th schedule have limited jurisdiction and cannot go beyond the record of the ECI as available on the website and hence I have not considered this aspect while determining the relevant leadership structure. Thus, given the above conclusions, I find that the leadership structure of Shiv Sena reflected in the letter dated 27th February 2018 available on the website of the ECI is the relevant leadership structure which has to be taken into account for the purpose of determining which faction is the real political party...”

What's 10th Schedule of the Constitution?

Earlier, while extending the deadline for deciding the disqualification petitions till January 10, the Supreme Court had said the sanctity of the 10th Schedule of the Constitution should be maintained. The top court had also asked the speaker to decide the NCP's petition seeking disqualification of nine MLAs of the Ajit Pawar group by January 31, 2024.

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Stringent provisions outlined in the Constitution's 10th Schedule aim to curb defection among elected and nominated members of Parliament and state legislatures, providing grounds for disqualification if breached.

The prolonged delay in announcing the verdict on disqualification petitions involving Shinde and the Shiv Sena loyalists faced severe criticism from the apex court. In previous hearings, the court rebuked the Assembly Speaker. The court stressed that these proceedings should not devolve into mere theatrics and that compliance with its orders is imperative.

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Shiv Sena UBT calls meeting between Speaker, Maharashtra CM 'highly improper' 

On Tuesday, the Shiv Sena (UBT) upped the ante as its president Uddhav Thackeray said that his faction has filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court on Monday. The affidavit objected to a recent meeting between Chief Minister Eknath Shinde, who is among the MLAs whose disqualification has been sought, and speaker Rahul Narwekar. "If the judge (Narwekar) is going to meet the accused, what should we expect from that judge," Thackeray asked, speaking to the media at his residence 'Matoshree' in Mumbai. He also noted that the two had met in October last year too.

Aligning with Thackeray's remarks, Sharad Pawar, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) founder and Thackeray's ally, echoed concerns, highlighting potential doubts arising from a case hearing involving the meeting of the concerned parties. Responding to the criticism, Narwekar defended the meeting's purpose, stating the appropriate contexts in which a Speaker could hold a meeting with a Chief Minister. 

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"If he still levels such allegations, then his motive is very clear. There is no rule that a speaker, while hearing disqualification pleas, cannot do any other work," Narwekar said. The Speaker met CM Eknath Shinde at his official residence 'Varsha' in south Mumbai on Sunday.

Sena Vs Sena: The Background Story Behind Maharashtra Speaker's Decision

In June 2022, a rebellion led by Eknath Shinde and several MLAs emerged within the Shiv Sena, challenging the leadership of then Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray. This internal strife resulted in a fracture within the Shiv Sena and ultimately led to the downfall of the Maha Vikas Aghadi government, a coalition that included the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Congress. Subsequently, Eknath Shinde aligned with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to form a new government. Later on, Shinde forged an alliance with a splinter group of the NCP, led by Ajit Pawar.

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Published January 10th, 2024 at 17:34 IST

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