Explained: Pilot’s HC Move, Speaker’s Notice & What Next for MLAs

The hearing will now take place on Friday before a division bench of the Rajasthan High Court. 

Updated
India
4 min read
Image of Sachin Pilot (L) and Ashok Gehlot (R) used for representational purposes.
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Sacked Congress leader Sachin Pilot, along with party 18 MLAs facing disqualification, moved Rajasthan High Court on Thursday, 16 July, with a plea seeking the notice to be 'quashed and proceedings be stayed.'

Pilot’s knocking on Rajasthan High Court’s door came in the wake of the notice, served to 19 Congress MLAs including Sachin Pilot, by state Assembly speaker CP Joshi. The MLAs are required to reply to the letter asking them why they cannot be disqualified.

The hearing, however, has been deferred after Pilot and the other MLAs’ counsel sought time to amend the petition, to incorporate a constitutional challenge against some provisions of Representation of Peoples Act. 

The matter is to be listed when the amendments are filed, which is likely to be heard on Thursday at 7:40 pm.

Pilot was, on Tuesday, sacked as deputy chief minister and the state Congress chief after he failed to show up at two Congress Legislature Party meetings. Two other ministers in the Pilot camp, Vishvendra Singh and Ramesh Meena, were also dropped from the Cabinet.

“Notices have been issued to 19 rebel MLAs, including Sachin Pilot, yesterday,” Speaker CP Joshi told PTI to Wednesday.

Sources said the notices were sent after the chief whip of the Congress in Rajasthan Assembly, Mahesh Joshi, wrote to the Speaker, seeking proceedings against the rebel MLAs in accordance with the 10th Schedule of the Constitution.

WHY DID SACHIN PILOT GO TO COURT ON THURSDAY?

Nineteen MLAs filed the writ petition, with Pilot as petitioner number 7, against the disqualification notices issued by the Assembly Speaker on Tuesday.

According to a report by Bar & Bench, “Pilot and the other Congress MLAs have challenged the issuance of notice as a move of 'unholy haste' which is 'mala fide and contrary to Assembly rules.'”

“There was no tearing hurry. No facts have been laid out that can suggest that these 19 MLAs have left the Congress party. Thus, the notice deserves to be quashed and proceeding should be stayed,” the plea states, challenging the correctness of the notice.

While former Attorney-General Mukul Rohatgi and senior advocate Harish Salve represented the Pilot camp, senior advocate and Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi appeared on behalf of the Congress party and the Speaker. The matter was heard by Justice Satish Chandra Sharma.

HAVE THE MLAs BOUGHT MORE TIME BY MOVING COURT?

The Indian Express explains that the MLAs are bound to reply within the two days’ time given to them. “If they fail to respond to the notice, the Speaker can proceed ex parte and disqualify the MLAs from the Assembly.”

The petitioners, however, claimed insufficient time was given to respond to the notice and that they should have been given at least a week’s time.

The Rajasthan HC deferred hearing the case as the petitioners, represented by senior advocate Salve, sought time to amend the petition and also prayed for listing the matter before a division bench.

It now appears that Pilot and other MLAs will have been able to buy more time, now that the hearing has been moved to Thursday evening. The MLAs will argue that they will only need to respond to the Speaker’s notice if the court doesn’t grant them a stay, as they have asked in the petition.

Given the issues at play, and the way the courts have dealt with similar cases in the past, it is likely that the high court will grant a stay on the notice, as an interim order, which would give them more time to respond.

This, however, does not mean that the court will decide in the 19 MLAs’ favour in the main matter, and that the notice will be quashed.

WHY DID THE SPEAKER SERVE NOTICES TO 19 CONG MLAs?

Sources said the notices were sent after the chief whip of the Congress in Rajasthan Assembly, Joshi, wrote to the Speaker, seeking proceedings against the rebel MLAs in accordance with the 10th Schedule of the Constitution, PTI reported.

The 10th schedule, also known as the anti-defection law, lays down the process by which legislators may be disqualified by the Legislative Assembly Speaker on grounds of defection based on a petition by any other member of the House.

The Congress complaint, and the Speaker’s notice late on the night of 14 July, came after Pilot and the lawmakers supporting him skipped the Congress Legislature Party meetings on 13 and 14 July, the Indian Express reported.

Congress, in its complaint to the Speaker, has accused the rebel MLAs of attempting to jump parties.

WHAT DOES THE SPEAKER’S NOTICE TO THE MLAs SAY?

The notice accuses the rebels of deliberately skipping two Congress Legislative Party meetings at Jaipur and acting in “deliberate collusion to topple the state government.”

Accusing the MLAs of activities that were blatantly prejudicial to the continuation of the government, the Speaker has given them time till Friday to submit their responses.

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