The Supreme Court on Monday granted interim relief to rebel Shiv Sena MLAs, allowing them to file responses to their disqualification notices by July 12, reported Bar and Bench.

The notices were served to 16 of the rebel legislators by Maharashtra Assembly Deputy Speaker Narhari Zirwal after they went to Guwahati on June 22 led by rebel minister Eknath Shinde, pushing the state into a political crisis. Zirwal had sought their response by 5.30 pm on Monday.

The rebel MLAs have challenged the disqualification notices in the Supreme Court.

On Monday, the Supreme Court issued notices to Zirwal, secretary of Maharashtra Legislative Assembly and the Union government on the petition, reported ANI.

The court also issued notices on the petition filed by Shinde challenging Zirwal’s decision to recognise Ajay Choudhary as the leader of the Shiv Sena Legislature Party instead of him.

The notices on these petitions were served to Choudhary and Shiv Sena chief whip Sunil Prabhu, seeking their response in five days. The matter will be taken up on July 11.

At the hearing, senior advocate Neeraj Kishan Kaul, appearing for the rebel Shiv Sena legislators, told the Supreme Court that Zirwal has no power to disqualify MLAs till the matter to remove him from office is decided, reported Live Law.

The rebel MLAs said that Zirwal should be ousted as he did not consult them before sending them the notices. Zirwal had given the notices as the Maharashtra Assembly does not have a Speaker after Congress leader Nana Patole resigned from the post in 2020.

Kaul told the court that the argument of a deputy Speaker not having powers to disqualify legislators was decided in the Nabam Rebia case by the Supreme Court in 2016.

“We hereby hold, that it would be constitutionally impermissible for a Speaker to adjudicate upon disqualification petitions under the Tenth Schedule, while a notice of resolution for his removal from the office of Speaker, is pending,” said Kaul, citing the Nabam Rebia case verdict.

The Supreme Court had held that Nabam Rebia, who was then the Arunachal Pradesh Assembly Speaker, was ineligible to decide on disqualification petitions till the motion seeking his removal was completed.

However, Congress MP Abhishek Manu Singhvi, representing the Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena faction, said that generically applying Nabam Rebia verdict to the current case would be disastrous. He argued that if an MLA is defecting, he can send a notice seeking the Speaker’s removal and prevent him from taking any action against the legislator.

Singhvi said that Zirwal had received a notice seeking a no-confidence motion but had rejected it as it was sent from an anonymous email id.

Meanwhile, the court asked Kaul why the petitioners did not approach the Bombay High Court before moving the Supreme Court.

Kaul replied that the atmosphere in Mumbai is not conducive for the petitioners to exercise their legal rights as a “minority of the legislative party is subverting the state machinery, attacking our houses, saying that our dead bodies will be returned”.

He was citing the statement made by Shiv Sena spokesperson Sanjay Raut who had described the rebel MLAs as “living corpses” and said that they would be sent for a postmortem examination on their return to Mumbai from Guwahati, where they have been camping.

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