MVA crisis: Uddhav Thackeray frequently skipped intel briefings, say top police officers

The Indian Express | 3 days ago | 24-06-2022 | 05:45 pm

MVA crisis: Uddhav Thackeray frequently skipped intel briefings, say top police officers

With the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) leadership caught unawares by the rebellion in the Shiv Sena, many in Maharashtra’s political circles are upset about the “intelligence failure” that left the government in the dark about minister Eknath Shinde’s coup. Top police officers, however, said that Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray used to sparingly take intelligence briefings, a charge denied by the CM’s office. Two surgeries in November 2021 and the delayed postoperative recovery cut him off from the administrative machinery, the officers said.For many years, the commissioner of the State Intelligence Department (SID) and the additional commissioner of Special Branch-1 (SB-1) of Mumbai Police brief the chief minister every morning on the happenings and developments in the state. While the SID commissioner briefing details happenings in the state, the SB-1 additional commissioner sticks to developments in Mumbai city.When Uddhav Thackeray began his tenure as chief minister, senior officers used to visit him at Matoshree and brief him every day. However, after some time, his interest in briefings reduced, a top police officer said, adding that when Covid struck in March 2020, Uddhav started avoiding contact as he was comorbid with eight stents in his heart. In November 2021, Uddhav underwent a surgery for his spine and recovery took more than four months. This allegedly further cut him off from police briefings.“In one of my columns written on two years of MVA government, I had mentioned that Uddhav Thackeray very sparingly took intelligence briefings – the eyes and ears of every government,” said BJP MLA Atul Bhatkhalkar.A spokesperson of the chief minister’s office denied this, saying the chief minister got intelligence briefings through video-conferencing or over the phone. A senior police officer disputed this, saying that intelligence briefings were always given face-to-face and never over the phone. He said that they used to brief former home minister Anil Deshmukh, the current home minister Dilip Walse Patil and even deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar.🚨 Limited Time Offer | Express Premium with ad-lite for just Rs 2/ day 👉🏽 Click here to subscribe 🚨Last week, after the MLC elections, the Shiv Sena was caught napping and only realised that cross-voting had taken place in the evening. “We saw some MLAs sauntering; they later went missing in the afternoon. We felt that they must be tired since they were holed up in the Powai hotel for three days. But when we discovered that there was cross-voting, we started searching for the MLAs,” a leader close to Uddhav said. “We alerted Uddhav and the police started tracking their phones. We realised that some of them were on their way to Gujarat. The police or intelligence should have informed us, but they never did,” he added.Sensing trouble, Shiv Sena MPs Anil Desai, Arvind Sawant, Vinayak Raut, spokesperson Manisha Kayande and Yuva Sena secretary Varun Sardesai left Vidhan Bhavan – the counting station for MLC polls – and headed to Varsha, the chief minister’s official residence. By then, it was too late as the rebels had left for Surat.

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SC order paves way for a floor test, say experts
Times of India | 4 hours ago | 28-06-2022 | 06:42 am
Times of India
4 hours ago | 28-06-2022 | 06:42 am

MUMBAI: The Supreme Court order extending till July 12, 5.30 pm, the time granted by the Deputy Speaker of the Maharashtra Assembly to Eknath Shinde and other 'rebel' MLAs to reply to disqualification notices, paves the way for a "very definite possibility" of a floor test to prove the confidence of the Assembly, said legal experts on Monday. Given that there is no stay on such action, the entire sequence of events now points in the direction of a floor test, which could be the only way out of the impasse in the next two weeks, said experts. "There will be no disqualification till then and they are theoretically entitled to having a floor test,'' said senior counsel Vineet Naik. The SC vacation bench of Justices Surya Kant and J B Pardiwala did orally allow Maharashtra state to knock on its doors in case a no-confidence motion is sought by the 'rebel' MLAs to verify the MVA's numbers in the legislature.Senior counsel Prasad Dhakephalkar said the Maharashtra governor can legally promulgate a Session of the House and direct a floor test be held. The process would then kick in and the State's legal team can immediately rush to the SC and seek an urgent hearing to try and stall it since the apex court is seized of the matter filed by the 'rebel' MLAs. Even if the motion does go ahead, the affected parties can challenge its outcome later. However, in the House during a vote for no-confidence, "there can be no concept of disqualification at that time,'' said a senior advocate from Delhi. But Dhakephalkar said if a motion is called for and a whip issued for members to vote, disobedience in the show of hands may incur consequences and pave way for notice of disqualification. With Shinde camp saying it constitutes a majority of the Shiv Sena Legislative Party, it may issue its own whip. Any disobedience of the whip may entail a disqualification petition, but then the ball may lie in the Speaker's court-and who the Speaker would be will depend on the outcome of the floor test. If the government remains, the Speaker will remain and if the Government falls the Speaker would change. "If a floor test were to be held, Shiv Sena would in all probability issue a whip to vote in favor of the Deputy Speaker. If the rebel MLAs were to defy this whip and avoid being disqualified, they would have to be 37 in number on the day of the voting or merge with the BJP or float a new political party, for which permission would be required to be sought from the Election Commission,'' said Naik. Rahul Chitnis, a counsel appearing on behalf of the State Government, informed the court that adequate steps have been taken and will be taken to protect the 39 dissident Sena MLAs and their families. "With this assurance by the State Government, which includes all three parties from MVA, it would be safe to assume that the 39 MLAs who are camping out of State can or may return to Mumbai,'' said Naik.

SC order paves way for a floor test, say experts
Blow to MVA: Can’t disqualify rebel MLAs till July 12, says SC
Times of India | 4 hours ago | 28-06-2022 | 06:37 am
Times of India
4 hours ago | 28-06-2022 | 06:37 am

NEW DELHI: In a serious setback to the Uddhav Thackeray-led MVA government in Maharashtra, the Supreme Court on Monday protected rebel Sena MLAs from disqualification proceedings till July 12, directed the ruling coalition to ensure their safety in Maharashtra and, importantly, refused the Sena-NCP-Congress coalition's request to stop the Eknathrao S Shinde-led rebels from demanding a floor test in the assembly. Shinde tweeted on the SC order, "This is the victory of Balasaheb Thackeray and Anand Dighe's thoughts." हा वंदनीय हिंदुहृदयसम्राट शिवसेनाप्रमुख बाळासाहेब ठाकरे यांच्या हिंदुत्वाचा आणि धर्मवीर आनंद दिघे साहेबांच्या विचा… https://t.co/FPRiQJL8ux— Eknath Shinde - एकनाथ शिंदे (@mieknathshinde) 1656329992000A string of senior advocates - A M Singhvi, Rajeev Dhavan and Devadatt Kamat - made strenuous attempts on behalf of MVA and the deputy speaker to persuade a vacation bench of Justices Surya Kant and J B Pardiwala not to interfere in the disqualification proceedings against 15 of the 39 rebel Sena MLAs supporting Shinde, saying it fell in the exclusive domain of the speaker. When the effort did not work, Kamat tried to stop the likely effort to bring out CM Thackeray's diminished support by requesting that if the disqualification proceedings, which were to commence after the end of deadline for the 15 rebel MLAs at 5.30pm on Monday to present themselves before the deputy speaker, are being deferred, then the status quo as of Monday be maintained and there should be no demand from the rebels for a floor test. MVA govt trying to avoid floor test: Shinde's lawyerShinde's counsel Neeraj Kishan Kaul promptly said "now the cat is out of the bag" and that the minority MVA government wants to avoid a floor test. The bench told Kamat that passing a restraint order on a floor test would give rise to unnecessary complications but told him the MVA was free to move court if any illegalities were committed. Kaul argued that as per a Constitution bench judgment of the SC in Nabam Rebia case, a speaker or deputy speaker facing motion of removal is prohibited from initiating disqualification proceedings against any MLA. He said the rebel MLAs had given notice on June 21 seeking removal of deputy speaker (Narhari Zirwal of NCP). Disqualification proceedings initiated against the rebel Sena MLAs is a counter manoeuver, he alleged. Kaul's argument found favour with the Supreme Court vacation bench headed by Justice Kant and submissions of Singhvi, Dhavan and Kamat failed to counter it. The bench asked Dhavan whether the deputy speaker would defer disqualification proceedings against the rebel MLAs till notice for his removal is decided by the House. But Dhavan insisted the rebel MLAs must present themselves before the deputy speaker on Monday itself to respond to disqualification notices. This made the bench pass the interim order deferring disqualification proceedings under the anti-defection law.

Blow to MVA: Can’t disqualify rebel MLAs till July 12, says SC
4-Storey Building Collapses In Mumbai, 7 Rescued: Official
Ndtv | 5 hours ago | 28-06-2022 | 06:06 am
Ndtv
5 hours ago | 28-06-2022 | 06:06 am

Mumbai Building Collapsed: 7 people have been rescued from the rubble of the building.Mumbai: A four-storey building collapsed in Naik Nagar of Maharashtra's Mumbai on Monday late night, informed the civil body official adding that the rescue operation is on.The fire brigade and police team reached the spot to rescue the trapped people from the debris."A 4-storey building collapses in Naik Nagar. Fire brigade team, and police at the spot as the rescue operation continues," Pravina Morajkar, Corporator told media persons here.According to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), seven people have been rescued from under the debris and are now in stable condition."Seven people rescued from under debris are in stable condition; 20 to 25 are likely to be trapped under the debris. Rescue operation on," the Corporator added.In another incident, a man died and 19 people were injured after a multi-storey building collapsed at Shastri Nagar in Maharashtra's Bandra West a few days ago.The man has been identified as Shahnawaz Alam, a 40-year-old man.PromotedListen to the latest songs, only on JioSaavn.com"The building collapsed around 12.15 am. One person has died and 19 are hospitalised and are now safe. All of them are labourers from Bihar. The fire brigade and officers are present at the spot," Manjunath Singe, DCP Mumbai Police told media persons.(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

4-Storey Building Collapses In Mumbai, 7 Rescued: Official
The 2/3rds rule in anti-defection law
The Indian Express | 5 hours ago | 28-06-2022 | 05:45 am
The Indian Express
5 hours ago | 28-06-2022 | 05:45 am

The political crisis in Maharashtra has given rise to the question whether the Shiv Sena rebels can avoid disqualification under the anti-defection law.Law and exceptionUnder the anti-defection law, a member of a legislature can be disqualified if he or she has voluntarily given up membership of their political party; and if he/she votes or abstains from voting in the House contrary to any direction issued by their party (or by any person or authority authorised by the party).There is a provision to protect such legislators from disqualification. If two-thirds of the members agree to a merger with another party, they will not be disqualified. Under the 91st Amendment to the Constitution in 2003, the exemption from disqualification if one-third of the members form a separate group (the rule prior to the amendment) was removed.How courts have ruledIn February this year, the High Court of Bombay at Goa held that 10 Congress MLAs and two two MGP MLAs, who had defected to the BJP in 2019, are exempted from disqualification and held that a merger of this group of Congress MLAs is “deemed to be a merger” of the original political party with the BJP (Girish Chodankar v Speaker, Goa Legislative Assembly).In Rajendra Singh Rana v Swami Prasad Maurya (2007), a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court interpreted the term “voluntarily giving up membership of a political party”, and held that “a person may be said to have voluntarily given up membership of an original party even though he or she has not tendered resignation from membership of the party” and that an inference can be drawn from conduct of the member.The two-thirds ruleSome experts believe that even if two-thirds of legislators have broken away, they will be protected from disqualification only if they merge with another party or become a separate group in the legislature.Senior advocate Devdatt Kamat, representing Shiv Sena, said that until the MLAs rebel camp merges with another party, disqualification under the anti-defection law will still apply to them. He said there are court judgements including in the Ravi Naik case (1994) in the Supreme Court which held this view.Senior advocate Shrihari Aney, a former Advocate General of Maharashtra, said there are debatable positions about the anti-defection law. “Various courts have passed verdicts as per specific facts of the case and I am of the view that the Eknath Shinde faction has already crossed the two-thirds mark and thus they cannot be subjected under this law and they are protected from the anti-defection law. They are entitled to be identified as a separate group or a ‘gat’ in the house and to participate in the proceedings.”Newsletter | Click to get the day’s best explainers in your inboxDisqualification noticesAnother issue that has arisen is whether the disqualification notices served on 16 rebel MLAs can stand the scrutiny of law. Experts said that as per the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly (Disqualification on grounds of Defection) Rules and other stipulations, the Deputy Speaker’s decision cannot be upheld.Aney said, “In my opinion, the notices disqualifying some MLAs are void ab initio. The orders are premised on the ground that these MLAs did not attend the official meeting and did not adhere to the whip. But, a whip is limited only to the business of the legislature… Here it was for a meeting called by their president Uddhav Thackeray.”

The 2/3rds rule in anti-defection law
Gujarat 2002 cases | Moving key riot trials out to indicting state: What Supreme Court once said and did
The Indian Express | 5 hours ago | 28-06-2022 | 05:45 am
The Indian Express
5 hours ago | 28-06-2022 | 05:45 am

Dismissing the appeal by Zakia Jafri, wife of former Congress MP Ahsan Jafri who was killed during the 2002 Gujarat riots, against the Special Investigation Team clean chit to then Chief Minister Narendra Modi and others over allegations of conspiracy in the riots, the Supreme Court, in its judgment three days ago, referred to proceedings being pursued to “keep the pot boiling, obviously, for ulterior design” and said “all those involved in such abuse of process, need to be in the dock and proceeded with in accordance with law”.The bench of Justices A M Khanwilkar, Dinesh Maheshwari and C T Ravikumar underlined that “materials collected during the investigation do not give rise to strong or grave suspicion regarding hatching of larger criminal conspiracy at the highest level for causing mass violence across the State against the minority community and more so, indicating involvement of the named offenders and their meeting of minds at some level in that regard”.Yet it was the Supreme Court which, through hearings and orders over the years, called for “fair and impartial investigation” into the riots cases. Two cases — of the Best Bakery and Bilkis Bano — were moved out of Gujarat to Maharashtra.At one point, the top court even expunged remarks of the Gujarat High Court against activist Teesta Setalvad and others – Setalvad was arrested last Saturday by the Gujarat police, a day after Zakia Jafri’s petition was dismissed.◙ On April 12, 2004, while ordering retrial in the Vadodara Best Bakery case after 21 accused were acquitted, the bench of Justices Doraiswamy Raju and Arijit Pasayat said, “Those who are responsible for protecting life and properties and ensuring that investigation is fair and proper seem to have shown no real anxiety. Large number of people had lost their lives. Whether the accused persons were really assailants or not could have been established by a fair and impartial investigation. The modern day ‘Neros’ were looking elsewhere when Best Bakery and innocent children and helpless women were burning, and were probably deliberating how the perpetrators of the crime can be saved or protected. Law and justice become flies in the hands of these ‘wanton boys’.”On the investigation and the trial court that ordered the acquittals, the judges said, “One gets a feeling that the justice delivery system was being taken for a ride and literally allowed to be abused, misused and mutilated by subterfuge. The investigation appears to be perfunctory and anything but impartial without any definite object of finding out the truth and bringing to book those who were responsible for the crime. The public prosecutor appears to have acted more as a defence counsel than one whose duty was to present the truth before the Court. The Court in turn appeared to be a silent spectator, mute to the manipulations and preferred to be indifferent to sacrilege being committed to justice. The role of the State Government also leaves much to be desired.”Hearing another petition the same day by Teesta Setalvad and others, the two judges expunged remarks made by the Gujarat High Court against her and the others: “Observations should not be made by Courts against persons and authorities, unless they are essential or necessary for decision of the case… There is no need or justification for any unwarranted besmirching of either the parties or their causes, as a matter of routine. Courts are not expected to play to the gallery or for any applause…”◙ Earlier, on September 19, 2003, when the then Chief Secretary PK Laheri and DGP K Chakravarthi were summoned, the bench of Chief Justice of India VN Khare, Justices Brijesh Kumar and S B Sinha asked Chakravarthi what steps he took when he learnt that witnesses were turning hostile. Chakravarthi said, “I did ask the Police Commissioner why they turned hostile. Answer is they appear to have been won over. I have made enquiry from the Police Commissioner who told me that these witnesses appear to have been won over by the accused.”Asked why he had not taken steps for their re-examination, Chakravarthi said, “I came to know at a much later date.”At this, Justice Sinha asked: “Do you mean to say that you asked the Police Commissioner only after the judgment of acquittal was passed?”. Chakravarthi said, “I do not remember the exact date. I did not take any steps even after coming to know that witnesses have been won over by the accused.”Chakravarthi died in 2020.◙ On November 21, 2003, the bench of CJI V N Khare, Justices S B Sinha and A R Lakshmanan stayed trial in 10 major riot cases on petitions seeking an independent investigation into the cases besides shifting of trials outside Gujarat.◙ On August 17, 2004, the bench of Justices Ruma Pal, S B Sinha and S H Kapadia directed that a riot cell be formed under the DGP to reopen cases closed by local police stations, and file quarterly reports.Stating that it would not proceed on the basis “that the entire investigating machinery in the State has failed”, the bench said “there should be further/more extensive and in-depth investigation into cases, numbering 2000, in which ‘A’ Summary Reports have been filed resulting in closure of cases at the threshold and that the State should consider further/extended investigations through its own high ranking officers to which none of the concerned parties (including State of Gujarat) had any objection”.In its order, the bench said, “The Non-Governmental Organizations which have been participating in this entire process, will be at liberty to draw the attention of the Range Inspector General to any particular case within the District of a particular Range Inspector General and the Range Inspector General will consider the same before deciding whether further/fresh investigation or what action, if any, needs to be taken in connection with the FIRs filed. The Range Inspector General shall see whether the FIRs already filed are defective/deficient or faulty in any manner.”Newsletter | Click to get the day’s best explainers in your inbox◙ On March 26, 2008, the bench of Justices Arijit Pasayat, P Sathasivam and Aftab Alam said,  “Communal harmony is the hallmark of a democracy. No religion teaches hatred. If in the name of religion, people are killed, that is essentially a slur and blot on the society governed by rule of law… Religious fanatics really do not belong to any religion. They are no better than terrorists… These are cases where there is an element of communal disharmony, which is not to be countenanced. The State of Gujarat has stated that it has no objection if further investigation is done so that peoples’ faith on the transparency of action taken by the State is fortified”.The Court called for a report in three months on investigations into the cases of the Godhra train burning, the killings in Naroda Patiya, Naroda Gam and Gulberg Society in Ahmedabad, Sardarpura and Dipda Darwaja in Mehsana district, two cases in Ode of Anand district and the killing of British nationals in Prantij, Sabarkantha district.The Court asked the Gujarat government to issue a notification to appoint the SIT headed by RK Raghavan, retired Director of CBI.

Gujarat 2002 cases | Moving key riot trials out to indicting state: What Supreme Court once said and did