Anti-Defection law can’t be weapon for leader to cling to power: Shinde Camp in SC

New Delhi: The anti-defection law should not be allowed to be a “weapon for a leader who has lost confidence of his own party to lock his members in and somehow cling to power”, the Eknath Shinde faction of the Shiv Sena contended in the Supreme Court on Wednesday.

Appearing for the group before a bench led by Chief Justice of India NV Ramana, senior advocate Harish Salve contended what happened in the Shiv Sena was ‘internal changes’. “Today there is a serious factual controversy on a number of issues… The basic premise of the anti-defection law is when you leave your political party. Nobody has found that there has been a disqualification of any candidate,” Salve contended.

“The divide is intra-party and not anti-party… It is about a leadership contest.” Salve argued chief minister Eknath Shinde was “a dissenting member of the party” and “within a political party there has to be democracy”. He said it was wrong to say that there were two Shiv Senas. “There is a qualitative difference between leaders of a political party.” A group of party leaders lost the confidence in one leader, Salve contended, referring to Uddhav Thackeray.

Appearing for the Thackery faction, senior advocate Kapil Sibal argued that the 10th Schedule was misused to “instigate and legitimise defections”. Seeking an early disposal of the petitions, Sibal argued the election commission cannot decide on awarding the party symbol since an ‘illegally constituted government’ was in power. Senior lawyer Abhishek Manu Singhvi, also appearing for the Thackery faction, argued the “anti-defection law was turned on its head. The end does not justify the means. Fruits of poison should not be allowed to be tasted”. Calling it a ‘conspiracy,’ Singhvi contended that the ‘game plan’ was to utilise time to run a government and legitimise it by getting some kind of recognition from EC.

Singhvi urged the court to not permit the Speaker to decide on the disqualification petitions. Opposing this, Salve said the Speaker was elected by a majority and he could not be stripped of authority and the SC ‘should not become a defection forum’. The bench said it was the Shinde faction which first petitioned SC for relief to get the deputy Speaker to defer hearing of disqualification by 10 days. The SC hearing will continue on Thursday.