Rutuja Latke met Uddhav Thackeray after the High Court decision.
The candidate of Shiv Sena’s Uddhav Thackeray faction was cleared to contest the Mumbai by-elections, with the Bombay High Court ordering the city’s civic body today to accept her resignation. The order came as a huge relief to the Thackeray faction, which had accused the Eknath Shinde government leaning on the civic body to sabotage the candidate.
Tomorrow being the last date of nomination filing, Rutuja Latke could not have met the deadline if her resignation was not accepted. The civic body chief had insisted on taking his time, arguing that under the rules, he has a month to make his decision know. Brihanmumbai Commissioner Iqbal Chahal, however, had denied any political pressure.
Following a plea by Mrs Latke, the High Court today ordered the civic body to give its letter of acceptance by 11 am tomorrow. The court rebuked the civic body chief Iqbal Chahal, questioning why the Municipal Commissioner was “not using his discretion and taking a decision”.
“If an employee wants to resign and contest elections, what is the difficulty? The petitioner is a clerk… It is just an employer-employee dispute… This is not even a matter that should have come to court. The Commissioner should have done it by now,” said the bench of Justices Nitin Jamdar and Sharmila Deshmukh.
Rutuja Latke is the wife of Sena’s sitting MLA Ramesh Latke, who died this year, making the by-polls necessary. The Thackeray faction said she had initially resigned on September 2 but there was a glitch in the paperwork and she had to give a fresh one but the BMC had been evasive about accepting it.
Even in court today, the civic body had insisted that it would take a decision before 30 days, citing a departmental inquiry into corruption charges against her. “She never used to attend the office while working. She used to work only for liaison,” the civic body had argued.
Calling the civic body’s argument a ruse, Mrs Latje argued that it was a “malafide complaint and being done based on someone’s else guidance”.
“If I contest the election, then at the time of scrutiny, my nomination can be challenged and it will be said that I am enjoying the office of profit. I don’t want to get into argumentative stage at the scrutiny and my form will be rejected,” her lawyer said.
Both the Shinde group of Sena and its ally BJP have denied interfering in the civic polls. But the two Sena factions have butted heads over the name and election symbol ahead of the bye-election for Andheri East.
Today, the Thackeray camp wrote to the Election Commission, accusing it of bias in favour of the Shinde camp.
In its letter, Team Thackeray alleged that the poll body had shared “privileged communication” by uploading its choice of names and symbols on the poll website “possibly even before (Team Shinde) had submitted his list”.
This, the letter said, allowed Team Shinde to give similar names and symbols which “effectively precluding the respondent [Team Thackeray] from being allotted his first choice of name and the first and second choice of symbol”.