Rajasthan HC to resume hearing on Sachin Pilot, 18 other rebel Congress MLAs’ plea at 10am

Rajasthan HC to resume hearing on Sachin Pilot, 18 other rebel Congress MLAs’ plea at 10am

Rajasthan High Court will on Monday resume hearing on the petitions by Sachin Pilot and 18 other rebel Congress legislators against the disqualification notices served on them by state assembly Speaker CP Joshi.

On Friday, the high court had directed that no action be taken against Sachin Pilot and the other rebel Congress MLAs until Tuesday and had deferred the hearing of their plea challenging the state assembly speaker’s disqualification notices.

Senior lawyer Abhishek Manu Singhvi, representing the speaker, will resume his arguments at 10am on Monday. Senior counsel Harish Salve and Mukul Rohtagi, representing Pilot and other MLAs, have completed their side of arguments.

Speaker Joshi had on Friday assured the court that he would not act till 5.30pm on Tuesday on the notices issued to dissident legislators over their failure to attend two Congress Legislature Party (CLP) meetings on July 13 and 14.

The MLAs had moved the court challenging the notice issued to them by Joshi on July 14 seeking an explanation on why they should not be disqualified from the assembly.

They had told the court that ruling party legislators’ disagreement with the manner of functioning of the chief minister cannot be seen as indicating their intention to leave the party so as to trigger the anti-defection law.

They said that criticising the party leadership is an exercise of freedom of speech and cannot be a ground to disqualify a lawmaker on the grounds of defection.

The petitioners through their counsel contended that a party whip applies only when the assembly is in session and that airing of grievances against party leadership cannot be construed as voluntarily giving up party membership under 2 (1) (a) of the Tenth schedule of the Constitution.

The petition challenged the speaker’s notice, which was based on a complaint by Congress’ chief whip Mahesh Joshi, that the MLAs should be disqualified from the Rajasthan assembly for defying the whip.

Mahesh Joshi sought action against Pilot and the other dissidents under Clause 2 (1) (a) of the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution, which provides for disqualification of MLAs if they “voluntarily” give up the membership of the party which they represent in the House.

Mahesh Joshi cited the absence of the dissident MLAs in two Congress legislature party meetings despite specific direction to attend them along with hostile and prejudicial conduct against the party, as an indication of the dissidents’ intention to leave the party.

Sachin Pilot, the 42-year-old leader credited with leading the Congress’ successful 2018 assembly election campaign, has categorically ruled out joining the BJP, asserting that attempts to link him to the opposition party were a ploy to tar his image.

If the rebel MLAs are disqualified, the majority mark in the 200-member assembly will come down, making it easier for chief minister Ashok Gehlot to win a floor test.