The Supreme Court on Monday gave Maharashtra Assembly Speaker Rahul Narwekar one week to fix a timeline to begin hearing petitions seeking disqualification of Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and other Shiv Sena MLAs accused of defection, reported The Indian Express.

Nationalist Congress Party leader Narhari Zirwal, who was the Deputy Speaker in June last year, had initiated disqualification proceedings against Shinde and other Shiv Sena MLAs who had rebelled against party chief Uddhav Thackeray.

Shinde and 15 other MLAs filed a separate petition challenging disqualification notices that Zirwal sent to them. Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray) MP Sunil Prabhu then filed an interlocutory application seeking quick disposal of the cases.

On May 11, a five-judge bench had directed the Maharashtra Speaker to hear and decide the disqualification petitions within a “reasonable time”, reported The Hindu.

On Monday, a bench of Chief Justice DY Chandrachud and Justices JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra noted that Narwekar has not taken any decision regarding the disqualification.

“He can’t do this...It appears that nothing has happened except a letter to the Election Commission…. What is the Speaker proposing to do?” the court asked. “He must sit down and decide those petitions now. We didn’t set a time schedule for him...but equally then the Speaker has to abide by the dignity of the Supreme Court.”

Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for Prabhu, said that the disqualification petitions were filed last year but nothing has happened so far. “This is a farce,” he said, reported The Indian Express.

Sibal also pointed out that a Supreme Court judgement had said that a Speaker should adjudicate the disqualification petitions within three months, unless there are exceptional circumstances.

The bench then gave the Speaker a week’s time to open proceedings on the disqualification petitions.

“He [Speaker] cannot now say he will hear it in due course,” Chandrachud said. “He has to keep on giving dates and get it ready for hearing...Let the Speaker take it up immediately; not just [say] further directions to be issued in due course. Due course may be even December, January, April.”

The chief justice also directed Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who was appearing for the Speaker, to inform the court about the time schedule. The court fixed the case for hearing after two weeks.

The Shiv Sena had split in June last year after Shinde and 39 MLAs backing him rebelled against the Uddhav Thackeray-led Maha Vikas Aghadi coalition. The Shiv Sena, the Nationalist Congress Party and the Congress were allies in the government. After more than a week of political drama, Shinde was sworn in as the chief minister on June 30, 2022, with the Bharatiya Janata Party’s backing.