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Hold open ballot floor test in Maharashtra tomorrow orders Supreme Court

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New Delhi, Nov 26: The Supreme Court has ordered that an open ballot floor test shall be held in Maharashtra on November 27, Wednesday. A Bench comprising Justices N V Ramanna, Ashok Bhushan and Sanjiv Khanna said that the proceedings will be recorded and also will be telecast live.

Further, the Bench said that the pro-tem Speaker shall be appointed immediately. The pro-tem Speaker will conduct the floor test. The administration of oath to all the members shall be completed by 5 pm, following which the floor test will be held, the Bench also ordered.

Hold open ballot floor test in Maharashtra tomorrow orders Supreme Court

Further, the court said that there shall be no secret ballot and the floor test shall be recorded.

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While reading out the order, the court observed that this court has been called up to maintain the principles of parliamentary democracy and protect the rights of the citizens of good governance. Several issues can be considered later as they are constitutional matters, the Bench observed.

The Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress combine on Saturday night filed a petition in the Supreme Court seeking quashing of the Maharashtra governor's decision to swear-in BJP's Devendra Fadnavis as chief minister and demanded an immediate floor test to avoid "further horse-trading".

The hearing on Monday began with Solicitor General Tushar Mehta producing the letters written by Devendra Fadnavis in which he staked a claim to form the government. The letter of the Governor inviting Fadnavis to form the government too was submitted.

Mehta said that the Governor is immune and had exercised his wide discretion. He said that the letter written by Ajit Pawar to the Governor on November 22 had the signatures of 54 MLAs. Ajit Pawar in his letter to the Governor had said that Maharashtra needed a stable government. President's Rule cannot continue indefinitely. He was asked by the BJP earlier to join them to form the government, but he had declined as there were not enough NCP MLAs to support.

Fadnavis in his letter to the Governor stated that he did not have the numbers when invited earlier to form the government. But now Ajit Pawar has written a letter in support of the BJP to form the government. Pawar has included the signatures of the 54 MLAs, Fadnavis also wrote. Tushar Mehta also hands over the letter of invitation by the Governor.

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Senior counsel, Mukul Rohatgi appearing for Fadnavis says that his pre-poll alliance partner Shiv Sena has gone away. President's rule is imposed and the NCP through Ajit Pawar writes with the signatures of 54 MLAs. I go to the Governor with the support of 170 MLAs and I am sworn in.

The Bench told Rohatgi that the question is whether today the CM has the majority on the floor of the House. There has to be a floor test held. To this Rohatgi says that a floor test is imperative.

While a floor test is imperative, the court cannot say whether it should be held after 10 days but five days or four days. Governor has the absolute discretion to appoint a CM and a judicial review of this is not permitted. It is the decision of the Speaker to decide on when the floor test should be held he also said.

Ajit Pawar's counsel Maninder Singh said that he acted as the leader of the NCP legislative party on November 22. There was nothing than to show otherwise on that day. The Governor acted in his discretion.

There is no case for an ad interim stay today. I will put it all in an affidavit. How can you give directions to the quasi-judicial authority like the Governor to conduct a floor test in 24 hours. No such directions can be given by you, Rohatgi for Fadnavis told Justice N V Ramanna led Bench.

Kapil Sibal appearing for Shiv Sena says that the promised made by the BJP did not materialise and that is why we walked out of the pre-poll alliance. It had nothing to do with the NCP or Congress, Sibal also submitted.

Sibal said that he has original affidavits which do not authorise Ajit Pawar to represent the NCP. Hold the floor test and let the oldest member of the House be made the pro-tem speaker. Floor test should be video recorded. It was in the cover of the night that some new opportunities came knocking. Let the floor test be conducted in full light.

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