Mumbai: The Bombay High Court on Thursday said it did not have the jurisdiction to hear petitions challenging the decision of Maharashtra Assembly Speaker who had ordered a 'voice vote' instead of a head count, enabling the newly-elected BJP government to prove its majority in the House last month.
The order was given by a bench headed by Justices V M Kanade, which dismissed a bunch of petitions challenging the voice vote ordered by the Speaker Haribhau Bagde after a trust vote motion was moved by the BJP to prove its majority in the 288-member House.
Earlier, the bench had asked the petitioners to cite Supreme Court judgements to show that high court had the jurisdiction to hear such matters. Accordingly, some apex court orders were submitted to the HC.
In his petition, Congress leader Naseem Khan had challenged the way the BJP government proved its majority in the Assembly on November 12 and questioned the Speaker's controversial decision to allow passage of the trust motion through a voice vote instead of a head-count (division of votes).
The other two were public interest litigations (PILs) on the same issue and had been clubbed with Khan's petition. One among them was filed by Rajkumar Awasthi, while the other jointly by Sanjay Lakhe Patil and Sanjay Chitnis.
The PILs argued that under the constitutional provisions, the respondents (Speaker and Chief Minister) are duty-bound to hold a secret ballot or head count to establish government's majority in House. But this was not done.
The decision of the Speaker to go for a voice vote was illegal and unconstitutional, they had alleged.
Opposition Shiv Sena and Congress had strongly criticised the "manner" in which Fadnavis government won the crucial trust vote dubbing it as a "foul play".
However, the BJP government had defended the Speaker's decision, saying all norms were adhered to in passing the trust vote.
"The first option for the Speaker is voice vote followed by a division of votes...If majority is proved by a voice vote then there is no need to go for a head count," Advocate General Sunil Manohar had argued during the course of hearing on petitions.
Even the rules of the legislature prescribe that voice vote is the norm, he had submitted.
Senior counsel Srihari Aney, who also appeared for the government, had backed Manohar's contention, saying the government had proved that it had a majority through the voice vote.
Those MLAs who were opposed to the trust motion could have moved a no confidence motion, but that was not done, he said.
"Speaker Haribhau Bagade's decision to opt for a voice vote was correct," Aney had said, adding the Speaker functioned like a court in the Assembly.
Khan's lawyer T R Andhyarujina--former solicitor general--cited supreme court's judgements to show that the high court has the jurisdiction to hear petitions challenging the Speaker's decisions on trust motions.
The Speaker did not act fairly by opting for a voice vote as the government did not have the numbers to prove its majority, he had said.
Bagade's action subverted the law laid down by the Supreme court that a floor test is mandatory in such situations, the counsel argued.
Andhyarujina had said the HC can interfere in the cases where fundamental constitutional principles are violated.
However, the high court did not agree with him and said it had no jurisdiction to hear such matters.
The BJP and its allies have 122 MLAs in the 288-member Assembly. In order to prove majority the party needs the support of 145 MLAs.