The Supreme Court today said that it will consider constitution of a larger bench for hearing the Eknath Shinde - Uddhav Thackeray dispute in Maharashtra

The bench comprising of Chief Justice N. V. Ramana, Justice Krishna Murari and Justice Hima Kohli said in the order "it is agreed that some of the issues raised require consideration, if necessary, by a larger bench". The parties have been directed to hand over the issues that arise in the batch of cases.

The Bench has also passed directions for filing convenience compilations and compilations of documents and Eknath Shinde was granted time for filing a reply to the lead case of the Uddhav Thackeray faction by Friday. The Court directed that the matter be listed on August 1. The Court asked for records of the House to be kept in safe custody.

Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal and Senior Advocate A.M. Singhvi appeared for the Uddhav Thackeray faction and Senior Advocate Harish Salve appeared for the present CM Eknath Shinde.

"Inner party democracy has been throttled by the disqualification provision", Harish Salve said. "The movement you question the authority of your leader not by leaving the party but by staying within the party, that is not defection. Defection is if you are joining someone else", Salve added.

"Defection law is being applied to the election by Shiv Sena of the CM of Shiv Sena. Your Lordships have never interfered with the working of political parties. There is a narrow area where the court would interfere with the working of political parties" Salve argues.

Harish Salve argued that there is no defection. "Are we at a place where a man who cannot find 20 MLAs in his party has to be brought back by the Court", Salve asked.

"Raising your voice within the party without crossing the Lakshman Rekha is not disqualification", Salve said.

Kapil Sibal responded to Salve's arguments by saying that the leadership issue of a party should be decided inside the party and not in the house.

"Should he become president of the party first to become the Chief Minister?", the Chief Justice asked.

"He cannot say that I am the leader of the party because I have the majority in the House", Sibal responded.

"Legislature party has a role to play in the legislature, for the purpose of defection, it is directly related to the political party", Sibal argued.

History of the Case

In the previous hearing, the Supreme Court had asked the Speaker of Maharashtra not to proceed with disqualification proceedings of the Shiv Sena MLAs.

The Supreme Court's vacation bench comprising of Justice Surya Kant and Justice J. B. Pardiwala had on the 29th June refused to stay the floor test on the petition filed by the Shiv Sena Chief Whip Sunil Prabhu, which was held on the 30th June as per the directions of the Governor of Maharashtra.

The Supreme Court had also in the same hearing allowed the applications filed by MLAs Anil Deshmukh and Nawab Malik, who are in judicial custody, to cast their vote in the floor test.

The Apex Court had on 27th June hearing stayed the disqualification proceedings against the rebel MLAs of Shiv Sena before the Deputy Speaker and had sought the responses of the State Government and the other Respondent Parties.

After the Maharashtra Legislative Council Elections on 20th June, a senior Shiv Sena leader, Eknath Shinde could not be contacted. On 21st June, Uddhav Thackeray called a meeting with all his MLAs but 11 MLAs were unreachable. The 11 MLAs led by Eknath Shinde flew to Surat. In order to prevent further loss of MLAs, Shiv Sena housed their MLAs in various hotels in Mumbai.

Shinde, later claimed that he had the support of nearly 40 MLAs and demanded Thackeray to break the Maha Vikas Aghadi alliance. On 22nd June, Thackeray declared that he is ready to step down as the leader of the alliance and from the post of Chief Minister.

On 24th June, Shiv Sena filed an application against the rebel MLAs and demanded the Deputy Speaker to disqualify the 16 MLAs. A no-confidence motion was also moved against the Deputy Speaker by two independent MLAs, but was rejected. On 26th June, Shinde moved a petition in the Supreme Court challenging the move to disqualify the rebel MLAs and on 27th June, Supreme Court deferred the hearing for 11th July and sought replies from the Respondent Parties.

On 28th June, Devendra Fadnavis met with Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshiyari, who on 29th ordered a floor test to be conducted on 30th June. The order of the Governor was challenged before the Supreme Court on the same day, but the Supreme Court refused to interfere with that order.

On 30th June, the floor test was conducted in which Shinde and Fadnavis staked the claim to form the government and Eknath Shinde was declared the Chief Minister of Maharashtra.