Mumbai(PTI): The approval by Maharashtra Assembly Deputy Speaker Narhari Zirwal to appoint Ajay Choudhary as the Shiv Sena's group leader in the House in place of rebel leader Eknath Shinde may expedite the need for the ruling coalition to prove its majority through a floor test, feels a constitutional expert.

Talking to PTI, former Maharashtra advocate general Shrihari Aney said the group of rebel MLAs led by Shinde can assert that it doesn't support the present Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government (comprising the Sena, NCP and Congress), and that the dispensation has lost majority, which will result in a no confidence motion.

"The decision of the Assembly Deputy Speaker to approve the appointment of Choudhary as the Shiv Sena group leader in the House replacing Shinde may have a precipatory effect by hastening the process of a vote of no confidence," he said.

The Sena-led MVA government is likely to state that it has numbers to prove its majority and call for a trust vote, he said.

Aney said the process of a floor test will begin once it is completely established that the rebel group has the necessary numbers.

''Once it is established, it will indicate that the MVA has lost majority. The rebel group along with the BJP may stake claim to form the government, following which the governor will ask for a floor test,'' he said.

He said the question of who the real Shiv Sena is and who the claimant of the bow and arrow symbol is cannot be decided by the Election Commission of India (ECI).

''The commission just registers a political party and allots a symbol," Aney said.

Shinde has asserted that he heads the real Shiv Sena and is set to apply for staking claim for the party symbol. This will be opposed by the Uddhav Thackeray faction, he added.

He said the 2/3rd split in a political party, to avoid disqualification of MLAs, should happen in the legislature party and not the original party since membership there runs into lakhs and difficult to ascertain a vertical split.

The Shiv Sena, which heads the MVA, has 55 MLAs, followed by allies NCP (53) and the Congress (44) in the 288-assembly where the current simple majority mark is 144.

The BJP has 106 MLAs of its own and is backed by one lawmaker each from the Raj Thackeray-led MNS, the Swabhimani Paksh, the Rashtriya Samaj Paksh, the Jan Surajya Party and six independents, taking its tally with allies to 116.

The Shiv Sena on Tuesday removed Shinde as the party's group leader in the Assembly and appointed Choudhary in his place hours after Shinde went incommunicado and travelled to Surat with a group of party MLAs loyal to him. Shinde is currently camping in Guwahati city of Assam with a section of Sena MLAs and independent legislators. He said he has 46 MLAs supporting him.

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New Delhi(PTI): The Union Home Ministry has asked all states that there should be no delay in registration of FIRs in cases of crimes against SCs and STs and closely monitor such cases where investigation goes beyond two months.

In a communication to all states and Union Territories, the home ministry also said that the district Superintendent of Police (SP) must ensure timely attendance and protection of all prosecution witnesses including police officers and official witnesses for speedy trial of cases related to crimes against Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes.

"There should be no delay in the registration of FIR in cases of crimes against SCs and STs. Ensure proper supervision at appropriate level of cases of crimes against SCs and STs, from the recording of FIR to the disposal of the case by the competent court," it said in the communication accessed by PTI.

The home ministry said the delays in investigation (beyond 60 days from the date of filing of FIR) shall be monitored at the district and state level in every three months, and wherever required, special DSPs shall be appointed to expedite the process of investigation.

"The authorities concerned in the state governments must ensure proper follow up of reports of cases of atrocities against SCs and STs received from various sources, including the National Commission for SCs and STs," the communication said.

The home ministry said atrocity-prone areas may be identified for taking preventive measures to save life and property of the members of the SC and ST communities. Adequate number of police personnel, fully equipped with policing infrastructure, should be posted in the police stations in such vulnerable areas.

"Delay in trial of cases of crimes against SCs and STs may be reviewed on a regular basis in the monitoring committee or monthly meetings chaired by district and sessions judge attended by District Magistrate, Superintendent of Police and Public Prosecutor of the district," it said.

The union government attaches the highest importance to matters relating to the prevention of crime, and therefore, it has been advising the state governments and UT administrations from time to time to give more focused attention to the administration of the criminal justice system with emphasis on prevention and control of crime including crimes against SCs and STs, the communication said.

The government of India is deeply concerned with the crimes against the weaker sections of society, particularly the SCs and STs and would therefore re-emphasise that urgent action should be taken by the state governments and UT administrations in such cases, it said.

The home ministry said the administration and police should play a more proactive role in detection and investigation of crimes against SCs and STs and ensure that there is no under reporting.

The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 (POA Act) has been amended in 2015 to make it more effective.

New offences such as tonsuring of head, moustache, or similar acts, which are derogatory to the dignity of members of SCs and STs have been added. The punishments have also been enhanced. Provisions of special courts and speedy trial have been added.

The Act was further amended in 2018. Section 18A has been inserted whereby conduct of preliminary enquiry before registration of FIR, or to seek approval of any authority to arrest an accused is no longer required.