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'Victory of democracy': Shinde faction hails SC ruling; Uddhav's Sena says 'fight will continue'

Supreme Court on Tuesday allowed the Election Commission to go ahead with the hearing of the Eknath Shinde group's plea seeking recognition as the "real" Shiv Sena and allocation of the party's bow-and-arrow poll symbol to it.

'Victory of democracy': Shinde faction hails SC ruling; Uddhav's Sena says 'fight will continue'

New Delhi: Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde faction on Tuesday (September 27, 2022) reacted to the Supreme Court allowing the Election Commission (EC) to go ahead with the hearing of its plea seeking recognition as the "real" Shiv Sena and called it a "victory of democracy". Shiv Sena leader Aaditya Thackeray, however, said that the SC ruling cannot be construed as a "victory for either camp".

"I hope they (Uddhav Thackeray camp) will learn a lesson. They will also realise which is the real Shiv Sena of Bal Thackeray," Kalyan MP and CM Shinde's son Shrikant Shinde said as he hailed the ruling as the victory of democracy.

Welcoming the top court's ruling that the EC will continue to hear the plea of the Shinde faction seeking the poll symbol of Shiv Sena, its spokesperson Naresh Mhaske said, "the rights of the EC and its powers have remained intact due to the decision of the apex court".

Fight for truth will continue: Shiv Sena's Aaditya Thackeray on SC ruling

Aaditya, son of Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, said that they will fight the battle for truth with all their might.

"The arguments in the case will have a far-reaching impact on the democratic principles in the country. We stand for truth and truth will prevail. The stage for arguments has shifted from the court to ECI. We are ready for the hearing. We have faith in the judiciary. We believe in the Constitution and will fight the battle for truth with all our might," he told reporters.

Earlier on Tuesday, Justice DY Chandrachud, heading a constitution bench, rejected the plea of the Uddhav Thackeray-led faction seeking to restrain the EC from deciding the state's ruling Shinde camp's claim over the "original" Shiv Sena.

"We direct that there would be no stay of the proceedings before the Election Commission," the bench, also comprising Justices M R Shah, Krishna Murari, Hima Kohli and P S Narasimha, said.

Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for the Thackeray faction, challenged Shinde's locus to approach the poll panel seeking claim over the party and its election symbol.

Sibal submitted the Election Symbol Order can be invoked only when the claimant belongs to the same political party but claims to be of a rival group.

"I am saying Shinde is no longer in the party and membership has been given up. How does the EC hear him then" Sibal said, referring to the disqualification notice issued against Shinde and some other Shiv Sena MLAs who had rebelled against then Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray in June this year.

Senior advocate Arvind Datar, appearing for the poll panel, said the Election commission is free to decide who constitutes the aspect of majority.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for Maharashtra Governor B S Koshiyari, contended the Election Commission is only deciding which faction is the "real" party and so it should be allowed to proceed with Shinde's plea.

Shinde group's counsel and senior advocate N K Kaul submitted an election symbol is not the property of an MLA and to which faction it belongs has to be decided by the Election Commission, asserting the poll panel cannot be prevented from taking any decision on the issue.

The bench was hearing pending cases related to the political crisis in Maharashtra that began with the Shinde group's revolt against Uddhav Thackeray's leadership which led to the fall of the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government in the state in June this year.

The bruising political battle had resulted in a slew of petitions getting filed in the Supreme Court by the rival factions, and the apex court referred those to a five-judge bench on August 23, saying the conflict had raised several constitutional questions related to defection, merger, and disqualification.

It had asked the EC not to pass any orders on the Shinde faction's plea that it be considered the "real" Shiv Sena and granted the party's poll symbol, the bar which was lifted on Tuesday.

Though the Shinde faction has formed a coalition government with the BJP in Maharashtra and enjoys the support of an overwhelming majority of MLAs who had won on Shiv Sena tickets, the Election Commission cannot recognise it as the original party simply on that basis.

The EC will have to consider the support each faction enjoys in the party's legislative and organisational wings. In such cases, the poll panel also goes through the party constitution and the list of office bearers submitted to it by the party when it was united.

(With agency inputs)

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