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Haste can lead to undesirable consequences, the Supreme Court on Monday told the deputy speaker of the Maharashtra assembly, while protecting a group of rebel Shiv Sena legislators led by dissident MLA Eknath Shinde from the disqualification proceedings till 11 July. The court also told the state government to ensure the safety of all dissident legislators and their families.

A bench of justices Surya Kant and J.B. Pardiwala virtually restrained deputy speaker Narhari Zariwal from disqualifying the 16 rebel MLAs until the Supreme Court examines whether Zariwal had the authority to entertain the disqualification petitions when a motion seeking his own removal was pending. Shinde and others sought Zariwal’s removal on 21 June. Four days later, Zariwal issued disqualification notices to the 16 dissident MLAs, including Shinde.

“We have to determine the very competence of the speaker to decide. If we don’t say anything today, that would mean the speaker is competent to go ahead. Today, we have to ensure the matter doesn’t become infructuous," said the bench, extending the time for Shinde and 15 others to file replies to the notice issued by the deputy speaker till 12 July.

As per the 25 June disqualification notices, the MLAs were asked to submit their written replies to the disqualification notices by 27 June. But the bench held that the disqualification proceedings must be “kept in abeyance" for the time being since there are questions surrounding Zirwal’s authority in initiating the action.

“Sometimes, haste also leads to unnecessary and undesirable consequences... we cannot ignore their (petitioners’) contentions. We have a Constitution bench judgment saying something very close to the facts of this case...status quo will have to be maintained," observed the bench, fixing 11 July as the next date of hearing.

Issuing notices to Zirwal, Sena chief whip Sunil Prabhu, and legislature party leader Ajay Chaudhary on the petitions by Shinde and 15 others, the court asked them to file their counter-affidavits within five days, following which Shinde and his loyalists could file their replies.

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