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Pilot, dissident MLAs get 4-day breather: Speaker’s action on hold till Tuesday evening

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Jaipur:  Sachin Pilot and 18 other Congress dissident MLAs on Friday got a four-day reprieve from any action by the assembly Speaker on the disqualification notices served on them, after the Rajasthan High Court extended its hearing on the issue to next week.

The division bench of the court, hearing the dissident MLAs’ petition against the Speaker’s notices, adjourned Friday evening. It fixed the next hearing for 10 am on Monday.

The counsel for the Speaker assured the court that no order shall be passed on the notice till 5.30 pm on Tuesday.

Earlier, Speaker C P Joshi had written to the court that the notices would not be acted upon till 5 pm on Friday. The counsel agreed to extend this to 5.30 pm on Tuesday as the court is yet to give an order on the petition.

Harish Salve and Mukul Rohatgi argued for the petitioners via video conference.

Abhishek Manu Singhvi was among those who argued on behalf of the Speaker.

“It was argued that Speaker’s powers are autonomous and he has issued show-cause notices. The judiciary should not interfere till the order on the notices is passed. The argument by Singhvi will resume on Monday at 10 am,” another counsel for the Speaker told reporters after the hearing.

The petition had challenged the notices based on a Congress complaint that the MLAs should be disqualified from the Rajasthan Assembly for defying a party whip.

The bench of Chief Justice Indrajit Mahanty and Justice Prakash Gupta also asked Congress chief whip Mahesh Joshi, who had filed the complaint before the Speaker, to respond to the dissidents’ petition by Saturday.

Joshi was impleaded in the petition today.

The Pilot camp has argued that a party whip applies only when the assembly is in session.

In its complaint to the Speaker, the Congress had sought action against Pilot and the other dissidents under paragraph 2 (1) (a) of the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution.

The provision disqualifies MLAs if they “voluntarily” give up the membership of the party which they represent in the House.

The Congress claims that this is the inference that can be drawn from the MLAs’ conduct. But the dissident camp says Pilot never indicated any intention to leave the party.

In the writ petition, the petitioners said that they have been elected on Congress ticket and have allegiance to the party and not seeking to defect to any other party.

“By way of the instant notice, the voice of the petitioners seeking a leadership change within the party, expressed in the most democratic manner, is sought to be stifled and the petitioners are threatened with abdication of their right to express their reservations about the functioning of such leadership,” the petition states.

“The undue haste and swiftness exhibited by the authority concerned in taking cognisance of the said complaint leaves no doubt in the minds of the petitioners that the move is aimed at arriving at a foregone conclusion leading to the disqualification of the petitioners,” it added.

The petitioners said any grievances regarding the functioning of the government were not tolerated by the chief minister.

The dissidents said that sensing a brewing discontent, the chief minister had called a legislature party meeting on July 13 without providing any specific agenda and levelled certain baseless allegations against them.

Subsequently, they were issued notices by chief whip Mahesh Joshi for not attending the meeting, said the petition.

The petitioners also said that chief minister ordered an inquiry by the Special Operations Group of the Rajasthan Police to investigate the petitioners which, they said, was no more than a ploy to threaten them and other MLAs against raising their voice against the inefficiency of the leadership within the party.

Pilot was sacked as deputy chief minister and the president of the state unit of the party after he rebelled against Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot.


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