Jaipur: After hearing arguments of both sides, the Rajasthan high court on Tuesday deferred judgment on the petition filed by rebel Congress MLAs including Sachin Pilot, against notices issued to them for response in the disqualification petition moved by the Gehlot government.
The court has taken till July 24. It has also barred the Assembly Speaker from seeking any action against the rebel MLAs till then.
The matter was heard by Chief Justice Indrajit Mahanty and Justice Prakash Gupta.
The reasons ranged from missing out Congress Legislature Party (CLP) meetings, conspiring to topple the elected government in Rajasthan, to hostile conduct and remaining inaccessible. One of the petitions said:
“The individual in question has, despite requests,
(i) deliberately absented himself from not one but two successive meetings of the Congress Legislature Party,
(ii) conspired to bring down the elected government of the INC in Rajasthan,
(iii) conducted himself in an openly hostile and prejudicial manner to the interests of INC and its Government of Rajasthan, (iv) remained mysteriously inaccessible in pursuance of this sinister objective for the last few days,
(v) not provided any reasons or explanation for his continued absence,
(vi) is admittedly part of a group that is seeking to destabilise the government and members of which have categorically declared this intention in clear terms to the media in three separate statements made on the evening of July 13th, 2020.”
The petitions also added that the conduct of the said MLAs should be read as voluntary renouncing of their membership in the Congress.
“All of these lead inescapably to the conclusion that the individual has ‘voluntarily given up membership’ of the Indian National Congress and the provisions of Para 2(1)(a) of the Tenth Schedule are attracted to disqualify him with immediate effect,” added the petition.
Subsequently, the Assembly secretariat had issued notices to all the 19 MLAs to send their written submissions within three days (July 17), failing which an ex parte action will be sought against them.
The rebel MLAs in the high court primarily stated that failure to attend meetings of the Congress Legislative Party (CLP) is not a ground of disqualification.
Questioning the notice, Harish Salve, counsel for Pilot and his supporting MLAs said, “Was there was any application of mind? [when the notices were issued by the speaker]”.
He added that issuance of disqualification notice over disagreements within the party violated fundamental rights.
Former attorney general Mukul Rohtagi also said, “Disqualification notice by Assembly Speaker was issued to Sachin Pilot and other MLAs on the same day of complaint. Less time has been given for reply than as stated in rules. No reasons recorded for issuing the notice.”
From the respondents’ side, Abhishek Manu Singhvi countered that court proceedings in this case were “non-maintainable, premature and without jurisdiction.”
He called the petition premature as the Speaker has not yet disqualified the MLAs.
Highlighting that courts have a limited role in the matters dealing with the Tenth Schedule of the constitution, he said,
“There was no scope of interference by a court over the show cause notices issued by the Speaker.”
Singhvi further added that the show cause notices were issued within the purview of Speaker’s power and there was no need to record reasons for it.
He said that it is the discretion of the Speaker as to whether to consider non-attendance of a party meeting and being critical of the party as grounds of disqualification or not.