Shiv Sena case and SC judgement – Explained, pointwise

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The Supreme Court’s landmark judgment on the split within Shiv Sena, a significant political entity in Maharashtra, has become a pivotal event in Indian politics. The dispute emerged between two factions within the party respectively. The SC’s Shiv Sena case ruling, delivered by a five-judge Constitution bench, holds far-reaching implications not only for Maharashtra’s political dynamics but also for the interpretation of constitutional norms in Indian politics.  

About the Shiv Sena case

In June 2022, a group of Shiv Sena MLAs led by Eknath Shinde rebelled against the then Uddhav Thackeray. When it became evident that the rebel would call for a trust, the Shinde received disqualification notices from the then deputy speaker. The faction moved to the Supreme Court challenging the disqualification notices served on them by the Deputy Speaker. Thereafter, petitions were also filed by the Thackeray group challenging the then Maharashtra Governor’s decision to call for a trust vote and the swearing-in of Mr Shinde as Chief Minister. The election of the new Speaker was also challenged.  

What is the SC ruling on the Shiv Sena case?

Must read: SC verdict on the Shiv Sena case: Key takeaways from Supreme Court’s Maharashtra verdict 

What are the key legal questions arising out of the Shiv Sena case?

Role and impartiality of the Speaker: The case brings into question the role and neutrality of the Speaker in handling intra-party disputes, particularly related to disqualification petitions.  

Definition of ‘Political Party’: There’s a question about the correct interpretation of ‘political party’ in the context of the Tenth Schedule of the Indian Constitution. Prior to the ruling, the distinction between a ‘political party’ and a ‘legislative party’ wasn’t explicitly defined, leading to potential confusion in its application.  

Anti-Defection law: The case questions how the Anti-Defection Law (Tenth Schedule) applies when a political party splits into factions, and how defection should be defined and identified in such scenarios.  

The interplay between Anti-Defection laws and freedom of speech: During the Shiv Sena case, some members argued that the anti-defection law was curtailing their freedom of speech and judgment.  

Governor’s role in floor test: The role of the Governor and the constitutionality of demanding a floor test, as well as accepting the resignation of a Chief Minister, have been questioned.  

What is the SC judgment on key legal questions in the Shiv Sena case?

The interplay between Anti-Defection laws and freedom of speech:  The court stated that the issue of disqualification should be decided by the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly as per established procedures in law.

Definition of ‘Political Party’:As per provisions of the Representation of the People Act, an association of individuals calling itself a political party has to be registered with the EC. The Speaker must recognise only the whip and leader who are duly recognised by the political party.

Appointment of the whip: The Speaker should have conducted an independent inquiry to verify the decision of the political party regarding the appointment of the whip.

Governor’s role in the floor test: The Governor can call for the floor test only if he has objective material before him to reach the conclusion.

What are the significances of the Shiv Sena case judgement?

Read here: SC verdict on Maharashtra political crisis: The apex court draws red lines 

What are the implications of the SC’s Shiv Sena case judgment on Indian federalism?

Party Control over legislators: The judgment, by defining a ‘political party’ to include the central organization, gives more control to the party’s high command over legislators, which can impact the balance of power between the central leadership and state units.  

Governor’s role: The judgment’s critique of the Governor’s actions could influence future interactions between state governments and Governors, impacting the dynamics of federalism.  

Preserving the stability of state governments: The clarification of the Anti-Defection Law in the context of party splits could significantly impact state politics, as it could discourage splits and defections, thereby preserving the stability of state governments.  

Ensure legislative independence: The judgment’s upholding of the Speaker’s role and authority in disqualification cases can ensure legislative independence in handling intra-party disputes, a vital aspect of federalism.  

What should be done to strengthen the Federalism further? 

Adherence to the SC judgment: Parties and legislators should strictly adhere to the Supreme Court’s judgment to uphold the spirit of democracy. This means respecting the rights of political parties as entities beyond just the legislature and honouring the authority of the party leadership.  

Speaker’s role in disqualification: The Speaker, in his capacity, should handle disqualification petitions judiciously, guided by the principles laid down in the judgment. He must act impartially, considering the constitution of the party, the rules and regulations of party leadership, and not merely the majority in the Legislative Assembly.  

Navigating party splits: In case of a party split, members should respect the court’s decision and not claim to be the original party to avoid disqualification. They should understand that the larger interest of the party and democratic principles stand above personal or factional interests.  

Strengthening Anti-Defection laws: To deter defections and uphold the principles of democracy, it might be worthwhile to further strengthen anti-defection laws. By ensuring strict penalties for defections, the stability of the government and the integrity of elected representatives can be maintained. 

SourcesSubhash Desai v. Principal Secretary, Governor of Maharashtra And OrsLive law (Article 1, Article 2 and Article 3), The Hindu (Article 1 and Article 2), Indian Express, Hindustan TimesThe Quint and Outlook India

Syllabus: GS – 2: Indian Constitution and Polity: Issues and challenges pertaining to the federal structure.

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