The judgment restricted the power of the Speaker to decide disqualification petitions if a resolution seeking his removal was pending.
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for the Thackeray faction, contended before a five-judge bench headed by Chief Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, that the court may refer the Nabam Rebia judgement (2016) to the seven-judge bench, “if we are able to persuade the court to do so”.
However, the bench — also comprising Justices M.R. Shah, Krishna Murari, Hima Kohli, and P.S. Narasimha — said this would be decided by the five-judge bench and arguments can be addressed regarding this. Senior advocate Neeraj Kishan Kaul assisted by advocate Abhikalp Pratap Singh, represented Eknath Shinde’s group, while Solicitor General Tushar Mehta represented the Governor to assist the court on question of law only. Mehta said he would like to submit a note as well.
Sibal said when the matter is taken up, he will be arguing on the reference to the 7-judge bench. The bench asked both sides to prepare a brief note on issues and submit it to the court. After hearing the brief arguments, the top court scheduled the matter for hearing on January 10.
In August this year, a three-judge bench of the apex court had said that a five-judge constitution bench will hear a batch of petitions filed by Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and Uddhav Thackeray factions on queries related to defection, merger and disqualification. A three-judge bench of the apex court, in its reference order, had framed first issue whether notice for removal of a Speaker restricts him from continuing with the disqualification proceedings under Tenth Schedule of the Constitution, as held by this court in Nebam Rabia (by a five-judge bench).
Thackeray suffered a major setback after Eknath Shinde and other MLAs rebelled against him and ousted him as the Maharashtra CM. They also laid claims to the Shiv Sena party and its symbol as well.
The top court restrained the Speaker from proceeding on disqualification petitions against Shinde and other MLAs and subsequently allowed a fresh vote of confidence in the Assembly, after which Thackeray resigned. The apex court, on July 11, asked the newly appointed Maharashtra Assembly Speaker not to go ahead with proceedings on the disqualification petitions.