The Supreme Court on Wednesday agreed to hear at 5 pm a plea by Shiv Sena chief whip Sunil Prabhu challenging the Maharashtra governor's direction to the Uddhav Thackeray-led Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government to take the floor test in the assembly on Thursday.
A vacation bench of Justices Surya Kant and J B Pardiwala took note of submissions of senior advocate A M Singhvi that an urgent hearing was needed in view of the decision taken by Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari asking the MVA government to prove majority at 11 am on Thursday.
"We will keep at 5 pm. Please make sure that paper books are supplied by 3 pm to parties concerned," the bench said.
As the bench commenced proceedings for the day, Singhvi, appearing for Prabhu, sought urgent hearing of his petition for a stay on the "illegal floor test" ordered for tomorrow by the Governor.
Singhvi said the votes of MLAs facing disqualification would be illegally counted if a floor test is held and it cannot include names which are "stigmatised".
"Floor test cannot include names which are stigmatised. I want a hearing late in the evening. Votes which cannot be counted will be counted. The entire exercise will be futile," he said.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said he had no objection to the matter being heard at 5 pm and will represent the governor in the hearing.
Senior advocate Neeraj Kishan Kaul, appearing for rebel MLAs led by Eknathrao Shinde, objected to the urgent hearing of the matter and requested that the case be taken on Thursday.
The bench then remarked, "Whether we decide in favour or not, they cannot be denied hearing. An urgent hearing ought to be granted."
Koshyari has asked the Maharashtra legislature secretary to hold a floor test of the MVA government at 11 am on Thursday.
The governor's letter comes amid the rebellion in the ruling Shiv Sena by senior minister Eknath Shinde, who has been camping in Guwahati since last week with a majority of party legislators and several independent MLAs, which has pushed the government led by Thackeray, who is also the Sena president, into a crisis.
In his letter sent to Maharashtra legislature's principal secretary Rajendra Bhagwat, Koshyari, said, "A special session of the Maharashtra Vidhan Sabha (legislative assembly) shall be summoned on June 30 (Thursday) at 11 am with the only agenda of a trust vote against the chief minister, and the proceedings shall be concluded in any case by 5 pm."
"The proceedings of the House shall be telecast live and appropriate arrangements for the same shall be made," the letter said.
Bharatiya Janata Party leader Devendra Fadnavis had on Tuesday night met the governor and requested him to ask the Thackeray-led government to prove its majority in the Assembly, claiming that the Shiv Sena-Nationalist Congress Party-Congress coalition dispensation seemed to be in minority as 39 Sena MLAs who belong to the Shinde faction have said they do not support it.
Earlier, the apex court on June 27 had kept in abeyance the disqualification proceedings against rebel Shiv Sena MLAs before the deputy speaker of the state assembly till July 11, and also sought responses from the state government and others on their pleas questioning the legality of notices seeking their disqualification.
The top court had refused to pass any interim order on a vehement plea by senior advocate Devdutt Kamat, appearing for the MVA government, that in the meantime there should not be any floor test in the assembly. The court said the state government can always approach it in case of any illegality.
Directing the MVA government to protect the life, liberty, and property of 39 rebel Sena MLAs, headed by minister Shinde, and their family members, the top court had said the rebels may file replies to the disqualification notices till 5:30 pm on July 12.
Shinde and 15 other rebel Sena MLAs have moved the top court challenging the disqualification notices issued by the deputy speaker under the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution on grounds including defection.
Besides Shinde, the other 15 MLAs are Bharat Gogawale, Prakash R Surve, Tanhaji Jaywant Savant, Mahesh S Shinde, Abdul Sattar, Sandeepan A Bhumre, Sanjay P Sirhsat, Yamini Y Jadhav, Anil K Babar, Latabai C Sonawane, Ramesh N Bornare, Sanjay B Raimulkar, Chimanrao R Patil, Balaji D Kalyankar and Balaji P Kinilkar.
While issuing the notice to the Maharashtra deputy speaker, the top court had directed him to put on affidavit the records of no trust notice served upon him by the rebel MLAs who have relied upon on the Nabam Rebia judgment to drive home the point that he cannot proceed with the disqualification proceedings when the resolution seeking his own removal is pending.
Shinde has moved the apex court against the disqualification notice issued by the deputy speaker to him and 15 other rebel legislators, calling the action "illegal and unconstitutional" and seeking a stay on it.
Shinde and a sizeable number of MLAs rebelled against the leadership of Chief Minister Thackeray on June 21.