With the Supreme Court’s cloud hanging over Narhari Zirwal, can he conduct the floor test?

New Delhi, Jun 29: A crucial floor test would be held in Maharashtra on June 30, 11 am where Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray has been asked to prove his majority.

It would be interesting to see who would conduct the floor test as the post of Speaker in the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly has been lying vacant since February. In this case, Article 180 would come into play as it authorises the deputy speaker to conduct the floor test.

However there is cloud over Narhari Zirwal following the Supreme Court order on Monday. While the Supreme Court shielded Eknath Shinde and 15 other rebels of the Shiv Sena from disqualification, it also questioned the competence of the deputy speaker in deciding complaints under the anti-defection law.

Shinde’s lawyers cited a 2016 Constitution Bench judgment in the Arunachal Pradesh disqualification case which said, ‘it would be constitutionally impermissible for a Speaker to adjudicate upon disqualification petition under the Tenth Schedule, while a notice of resolution for his own removal from the Office of the Speaker, is pending.”

When the Uddhav Thackeray faction said that no floor test should take place in the meantime as it would disturb the status quo, the Supreme Court refrained from passing any order that pre-empted any party from demanding a floor test. It also did not refrain Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshiyari from asking the Thackeray government to prove its majority on the floor of the House.

The question now is who would conduct the floor test. The role of the deputy speaker in conducting the test becomes crucial. There are clouds over Zirwal’s authority following the observations by the Supreme Court on Monday. The court had agreed to examine if he can take important decisions until the issue of his own removal is settled.

In this event the BJP and the Shinde faction can ask the Governor to appoint a pro-tem Speaker to conduct the floor test. Article 180 says that when posts of the Speaker and deputy speaker are vacant, the duties of the office must be performed by such member of the assembly as the Governor may appoint for the purpose. Convention says that the senior most member of the House is chosen as the pro-tem Speaker.