ANI Photo | Maharashtra political crisis: SC refers Nabam Rebia decision to larger bench of seven judges

The Supreme Court on Thursday while hearing a batch of petitions on the Maharashtra political crisis referred to a larger bench of seven judges to consider the 2016 Nabam Rebia decision on the powers of Assembly Speakers to deal with disqualification pleas.
“The correctness of the decision in Nabam Rebia (supra) is referred to a larger bench of seven judges,” A five-judge bench of Chief Justice DY Chandrachud and Justices MR Shah, Krishna Murari, Hima Kohli and PS Narasimha said.
The court noted that it appears that some aspects were not considered in Nabam Rebia’s judgement. Among them was, whether the temporary disablement of the functions of the Speaker under the Tenth Schedule is prone to misuse by MLAs who anticipate that disqualification petitions will be instituted against them or by MLAs against whom disqualification petitions have already been instituted, the court noted.
The court also said that whether a “constitutional hiatus” in the operation of the Tenth Schedule ensues because of the temporary disablement of the Speaker was not considered in Nabam Rebia’s judgement.
“To give quietus to the issue, we refer to the following question (and any allied
issues which may arise) to a larger Bench: whether the issuance of a notice of
intention to move a resolution for the removal of the Speaker restrains them from adjudicating disqualification petitions under the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution,” the court said.
The top court said that the matter may be placed before the Chief Justice for appropriate orders.
“Article 181 of the Constitution provides that the Speaker shall not preside over a sitting of the Legislative Assembly while a resolution for their removal is under consideration. It appears that the majority in Nabam Rebia (supra) did not consider the effect and import of Article 181, and whether the Constitution envisages the imposition of any restriction on the functions of
the Speaker beyond the limited restriction imposed by Article 181,” the court observed.
“The second proviso to Article 179 provides that whenever the Assembly is dissolved, the Speaker shall not vacate their office until immediately before the first meeting of the Assembly after the dissolution. This Court did not consider if the Constitution envisages a restriction on the continuous performance of the functions of the Speaker under the Tenth Schedule in view of this provision, the top court noted.
Pending the decision of the larger bench, the court passed various directions on Maharashtra political crisis as an interim measure.
Earlier the top court in February said it would decide later on referring the cases related to the Maharashtra political crisis to a larger seven-judge bench for reconsideration of a 2016 Nabam Rebia judgment on powers of Assembly Speakers to deal with disqualification pleas.
Uddhav Thackeray faction of Shiv Sena sought that the five-judge Nabam Rebia case is referred to a seven-judge bench for reconsideration. In the 2016 Nabam Rebia case, the five-judge Constitution bench had held that Speaker cannot initiate disqualification proceedings when a resolution seeking his removal is pending.
In 2016, a five-judge Constitution bench, while deciding the Nabam Rebia case of Arunachal Pradesh, had held that the Assembly Speaker could not proceed with a plea for disqualification of MLAs if a prior notice seeking removal of the Speaker is pending decision in the House.
The Nabam Rebia judgment had come to the rescue of the rebel MLAs led by Eknath Shinde, now the chief minister of Maharashtra.
The Thackeray faction had sought their disqualification even while a notice of the Shinde group for the removal of Maharashtra assembly deputy speaker Narhari Sitaram Zirwal, a Thackeray loyalist, was pending before the House.
2016 Nabam Rebia’s judgment was passed by a five-judge bench and a bench of the same strength cannot interfere with the judgment by a bench of the same strength.
Shinde group cited Nabam Rebia’s judgment stating that the deputy Speaker has no authority to decide disqualification when a notice for his removal is pending.
While Uddhav Thackeray camp of Shiv Sena argued in favour of revisiting the 2016 verdict saying that a Speaker faced with a notice seeking his removal cannot exercise powers under the 10th Schedule, the faction led by Chief Minister Eknath Shinde said the 2016 Nabam Rebia judgment was not relevant to the issues arising from Maharashtra political crisis.
The Shinde camp has defended the 2016 judgment as correct, which required no relook. During the hearing of the case, the apex court on Wednesday said that issues arising from the Maharashtra political crisis rooted in the Shiv Sena feud are “tough Constitutional issues” to decide and observed that it may have “tightened” a 2016 judgement.
The apex court was hearing arguments on whether the matter should be heard by a seven-judge bench or a five-judge bench. A five-judge Constitution bench was hearing a batch of petitions filed by rival factions Uddhav Thackeray and Chief Minister Eknath Shinde in relation to the Maharashtra political crisis.

This report is filed by ANI news service.

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