Pilot Camp Hearing Pushed to Mon, Speaker to Not Act Till 21 July

19 MLAs including Sachin Pilot had file a fresh petition on Friday which was listed before a division bench.

3 min read
Sachin Pilot and Ashok Gehlot.

The Rajasthan High Court on Friday, 17 July, deferred till Monday the hearing of Sachin Pilot camp’s petition against the notice to them from the Speaker of the Assembly asking why they shouldn't be disqualified for "anti-party activities".

The court directed the Speaker of the assembly, CP Joshi, not to take any decision regarding disqualification of the 19 MLAs till 5 pm on 21 July.

The original deadline specified by the Speaker in the show cause notices to the MLAs was Friday, 17 July.

Joshi had also raised questions about why crucial Legislative Party meetings which took place on Monday and Tuesday were not attended by the 19 MLAs.

The hearing took place on Friday after senior advocate Harish Salve, representing the Pilot camp in court, had sought time on Thursday to amend the petition to incorporate challenges against some provisions of the Representation of Peoples Act, according to Live Law.

The 19 MLAs including ex-DY CM Sachin Pilot had filed a fresh petition on Friday which was listed before a division bench.

Court Proceedings on Friday

Salve made most of the arguments before the bench of Chief Justice Indrajit Mahanty and Justice Prakash Gupta. The two key areas of focus were:

1) The anti-defection law could not be used to disqualify the MLAs in Sachin Pilot's camp as the legislative Assembly was not in session.

2) The 19 MLAs had not resigned from the Congress and their actions cannot be inferred as resignations (thereby attracting disqualification under Para 2(1)(a) of the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution). They were only expressing dissent, which is part of their fundamental right to freedom of speech.

Senior advocate and former Attorney General of India Mukul Rohatgi also made brief submissions in support of Salve's contentions.

The Speaker of the Rajasthan Legislative Assembly and other officials against whom the petition was filed, were represented by senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi.

They suggested to the court that the petition by Pilot and the other MLAs was premature as the Speaker had not taken any decision against them, and so there was no cause for the court to get involved at this stage.

Plea Claimed MLAs Didn't Intend to Leave Congress Party

The plea filed by Pilot and other 18 rebel MLAs on Thursday contested that not attending two party meetings does not fall within the purview of Para (2)(a) of the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution of India, hinting that the disqualification is illegal.

"....Non-attending of any of the party meetings as also, voicing a difference of opinion outside the House are matters between the Member and his party and have nothing to so so far as the deeming clause of Tenth Schedule is concerned," it added.

Echoing Pilot's comments on Thursday, all the MLAs maintained that they have no intention of leaving the Congress party.

“None of the petitioners herein have either by express conduct or implied conduct, indicated to the members of their constituencies and/or the public at large of their intention to leave or voluntary give up the membership of Indian National Congress.”
Petition filed in Rajasthan HC by Pilot camp

The writ petition filed through Advocate Divyesh Maheshwari also stated, "Petitioners continue to express their allegiance to the party and are in no manner seeking to defect any other party, much less bring down the government of which they have been part of."

Calling all the allegations baseless, the MLAs further added, "...No member of prudent mind can come to the conclusion that the Petitioners have voluntarily given up the membership of the Indian Congress Party."

According to Live Law, MLAs have also said that they cannot expect to get "justice" from the Speaker as he is acting "under the influence of CM Ashok Gehlot".

These developments come three days after the sacking of Sachin Pilot from the positions of dy-CM and state party president. Meanwhile, Congress has blamed BJP for triggering the crisis in the state.

If the 19 MLAs are disqualified, the majority mark in Rajasthan Assembly will come down, making it easy for Ashok Gehlot to remain in power. However, if the MLAs including Pilot win the legal battle in the court, CM of the state might be pushed to the brink.

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