Supreme Court has granted an extension to the Maharashtra Speaker, allowing more time to decide on the disqualification petitions filed by the Sharad Pawar faction of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) against the Ajit Pawar faction. The new deadline for the Speaker to make a decision is set for February 15, 2024.
This decision was reached by a bench consisting of Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud, along with Justices JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra. The extension comes after the court had initially directed the Speaker to decide according to the tenth schedule of the Constitution by January 31, 2024. However, two days before the deadline, the Speaker approached the Supreme Court, seeking an additional three weeks.
Solicitor General of India, Tushar Mehta, explained that the Speaker, who was occupied with disqualification petitions related to the Shiv Sena rift, required more time. Mehta stated that the proceedings were otherwise concluded, and the Speaker realistically needed three more weeks to deliver the final order.
The Supreme Court set the original deadline in response to a writ petition filed by a member of the NCP (Sharad Pawar) group. The petition aimed to direct the Speaker to decide on the disqualification petitions filed against the Ajit Pawar group.
The dispute originated when a faction led by Ajit Pawar and Praful Patel separated from NCP supremo Sharad Pawar, aligning with the BJP and Shinde Sena. This move led to Ajit Pawar being sworn in as the Deputy Chief Minister, while eight other NCP MLAs took oath as Ministers in the Eknath Shinde-led government in July 2023.
In response, the official NCP filed a disqualification petition against Ajit Pawar and the eight MLAs who joined the Shinde Government. Ajit Pawar countered, asserting that he had the support of the majority of NCP MLAs, representing the ‘real’ NCP. Praful Patel, meanwhile, declared Ajit Pawar as the leader of the NCP legislative party in the assembly, a position he held until July 1. Currently, the Election Commission of India is hearing a petition filed by the Ajit Pawar faction, claiming the NCP party’s name and its election symbol.