SUPREME COURT VERDICT ON MAHARASHTRA
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Context: The political crisis that rocked Maharashtra in June 2022, has finally reached its legal conclusion.
- The Supreme Court has delivered its verdict on the political crisis that rocked Maharashtra last year when a split in the Shiv Sena led to the formation of a new government.
- The court has made some important observations on the role of the Governor and the Speaker in this episode but has also left some issues unresolved.
Role of the Governor
- The court held that the then Governor acted wrongly when he asked the Chief Minister to prove his majority in a floor test within 24 hours, without giving him a reasonable opportunity to do so.
- The court also said that the Governor should not have invited the rebel group to form the government when disqualification proceedings against them were pending before the Speaker.
- The court said that the Governor should not precipitate the fall of a government or interfere with the functioning of the legislature.
- The court said that the Governor had acted in a partisan manner and violated the constitutional norms of impartiality and neutrality.
Role of Speaker
- The court said that the Speaker was also wrong in appointing a whip of the rebel group and recognising it as the real Shiv Sena, without deciding on the disqualification petitions filed by both sides.
- The court also criticized the Speaker for acting in haste and not giving enough opportunity to the rebel MLAs to explain their conduct before disqualifying them.
- The court also directed the Speaker to conduct a floor test within a week to prove the majority of the current government.
- The court did not interfere with the disqualification proceedings and left it to the Speaker to decide.
Impartiality is crucial for the proper functioning of constitutional democracy in India
- The impartiality of the governor and the speaker is crucial for the proper functioning of constitutional democracy in India.
- The governor is the head of the state and acts as a link between the centre and the state.
- The speaker is the presiding officer of the legislative assembly and ensures the smooth conduct of the business of the house.
- Both these roles require a high degree of neutrality and fairness, as they have to uphold the constitutional values and principles and protect the rights and interests of all the stakeholders.
- There have been instances where the governor and the speaker have been accused of acting in a partisan manner, favouring one political party over another, or interfering in the affairs of the state government. This has led to a loss of trust and credibility in these institutions and has also created a lot of political instability and uncertainty.
- The appointment of the governor by the president on the advice of the central government often raises questions about their independence and autonomy.
- There have been cases where governors have been removed or transferred arbitrarily, or have acted as agents of the centre to destabilize or dismiss state governments.
- The speaker's power to decide on matters such as disqualification of members under the anti-defection law, recognition of the leader of the opposition, adjournment or prorogation of the house, etc. can be misused to favour or disfavour certain members or parties.
- There have been cases where speakers have been biased in their decisions or have delayed or avoided taking decisions on crucial issues.
Lack of clear guidelines
- Lack of clear guidelines or norms for the exercise of discretion by the governor and the speaker in situations such as hung assembly, no-confidence motion, imposition of president's rule, etc. can lead to ambiguity and controversy.
- There have been cases where different governors or speakers have adopted different approaches or criteria in similar situations, leading to inconsistency and confusion.
Steps to ensure the impartiality of the governor and the speaker:
- Strengthen the institutional mechanisms for their appointment and removal, such as parliamentary scrutiny, consultation with state governments, fixed tenure, etc.
- Establish clear rules and procedures for their functioning, such as time-bound decision-making, judicial review, code of conduct, etc.
- Enhance their accountability and transparency, such as regular reporting, disclosure of assets and liabilities, declaration of conflicts of interest, etc.
- Promote their awareness and education, such as orientation programmes, training workshops, exposure visits, etc.
- Encourage their dialogue and cooperation with other constitutional authorities, such as the judiciary, election commission, comptroller and auditor general, etc.
- The role of the governor and speaker in a parliamentary democracy is crucial for ensuring the smooth functioning of the legislature and the executive. Both these offices require impartiality and independence from political affiliations and pressures, as they have to uphold the rights and privileges of the members and the house, as well as act as the final interpreters of the constitution and the rules of procedure.
Must Read Articles:
Appointment of Governors: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1UIp6ErkG9RH_4WDpSdiJeJG73qboIk3bxDu2mxOjGXY/edit#
Anti-defection law: https://www.iasgyan.in/daily-current-affairs/anti-defection-law-34
Rameshwar Prasad v/s Union of India case: https://www.iasgyan.in/daily-current-affairs/rameshwar-prasad-case
Q. How important is it for the governor and the speaker to be impartial in their roles? What are the challenges they face in maintaining their neutrality and integrity? What are some possible solutions to overcome these challenges and ensure the smooth functioning of the legislative assembly?