On February 14, a five-judge panel headed by Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of India DY Chandrachud and including Justice MR Shah, Krishna Murari, Hima Kohli, and PS Narasimha began hearing the case.
The Uddhav Thackeray side brought up a preliminary issue, arguing that the case should be transferred to a larger bench to examine the Nabam Rebia (2016) judgment’s dicta that Speakers cannot issue disqualification notices while a notice of removal is still ongoing.
During three days, the bench heard arguments on the preliminary issue. On February 17, the bench decided to take into account both the merits of the case and this opening contention. Eknath Shinde was recognized as the official Shiv Sena leader by the Election Commission of India on the same day.
The bench began hearing the case on its merits on February 21.
On the Uddhav Thackeray side, senior attorneys Kapil Sibal, Dr Abhishek Manu Singhvi, and Devadatt Kamat presented their case. Prominent attorneys Neeraj Kishan Kaul, Harish Salve, Mahesh Jethmalani, and Maninder Singh argued on behalf of the Shinde side with assistance from M/s. TAS Law attorneys Chirag Shah, Utsav Trivedi, Himanshu Sachdeva, Manini Roy, Piyush Tiwari, and Chaitali Jugran (Advocates on Record). Tushar Mehta, the Indian government’s top lawyer, presented the governor of Maharashtra’s case.
On Thursday, March 17, the Supreme Court ruled that because Uddhav Thackeray submitted his resignation before a floor test could take place, Thackeray cannot be reinstated back in his position as Maharashtra’s chief minister. The five-judge constitution bench presided over by Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud, stated to the lawyer for the Uddhav group that requested the supreme court to reinstate Uddhav Thackeray as chief minister is equivalent to trying to reinstate a government that resigned before the floor test.
The court made a joke, “So what do we do, in your opinion? reestablish you? But you gave up. It would be like asking a court to reinstall a government that had resigned before the floor test.”
According to sources, the Thackeray group had proposed that the court may return to the “status quo ante” and reinstall Uddhav as CM, just as it did in 2016 when it reinstalled Nabam Tuki as the leader of Arunachal Pradesh. The court asked the Thackeray faction how it could reinstall the chief minister when he had not even taken the floor test.
The bench also included Judges MR Shah, Krishna Murari, Hima Kohli, and PS Narasimha in addition to Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud. The court deferred its decision regarding the Shiv Sena dispute between the Eknath Shinde faction and the Uddhav Thackeray faction on Thursday.
A member of the legal team for the Uddhav group, Abhishek Singhvi, stated in court: “It doesn’t matter that I’m leaving. Your lordships are only restoring the pre-existing order; nobody is being reinstated.”
He said, “The ex-resignation CM’s on June 29, 2022, would be immaterial since once the governor’s illegal activity is allowed to take effect, the outcome of the trust vote was known and certain, and therefore there was no need for the ex-CM to subject himself to it.
The group led by Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde received the moniker “Shiv Sena” and its election symbol in February, not the Uddhav Thackeray faction. Uddhav Thackeray expressed his displeasure with the choice by saying, “We will undoubtedly appeal this EC order to the Supreme Court. We are confident that the SC will overturn this decision and disqualify the 16 MLAs.”