Sachin Pilot’s plea in court invokes freedom of speech, hearing at 1 pm today
The battle in the court is important from the point of view of the numerical strength in the assembly, which will matter in the event of a no confidence motion in the government.Updated: Jul 17, 2020 01:19 IST
Congress rebel Sachin Pilot’s petition seeking dismissal of the disqualification notices served to him and his 18 loyalists will be heard tomorrow by a two-member division bench of the Rajasthan High Court at 1 pm.
The matter was deferred after filing of an amended petition by Sachin Pilot’s camp following the decision to withdraw an earlier petition filed at 3 pm before a single judge bench.
Pilot and his followers are being represented by a legal team led by senior advocates Harish Salve and Mukul Rohtagi, who are contesting a notice of disqualification served on their clients by Rajasthan assembly speaker on the request of Congress chief whip Mahesh Joshi.
Mahesh Joshi’s counsel NK Mallo confirmed that the hearing had been deferred till 1pm on Friday.
The matter had first come up before Justice Satish Chandra Sharma at about 3 pm, but the dissidents’ advocate Harish Salve sought time to file a fresh petition, which was filed at about 5 pm. The court referred it to a two-judge division bench.
Congress chief whip has also asked the Court to be heard in the matter. The chief whip is being represented by a legal team led by senior counsel and Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi.
Thursday marks the shifting of the political slugfest in Rajasthan to the high court, which will likely make the crucial decision about the fate of the 19 Congress MLAs who have rebelled against the leadership of chief minister Ashok Gehlot alleging ill-treatment and the state government’s alleged failure to fulfil promises made nearly two years ago before assembly polls.
Gehlot’s camp has however, accused his erstwhile deputy in the government and also the former state party chief, Sachin Pilot, of plotting his government’s downfall in connivance with the BJP, a charge denied both by Pilot and the BJP.
Pilot was sacked from both the positions after he and his followers refused to attend two legislative party meetings held over two days to discuss alleged horse-trading charges and the differences between the two rival factions. Yesterday, the party chief whip went ahead and asked the assembly speaker to disqualify all 19 MLAs for defying the party whip. He also invoked the 10th schedule of the constitution that deals with anti-defection law.
Pilot and his team were then served a notice of disqualification from the membership of the assembly and asked to respond by Friday.
The delay in the hearing was caused today due to Pilot’s legal team’s decision to amend the petition to challenge the Rajasthan Assembly Member (Disqualification on the grounds of changing party) Rules, 1989, instead of the notices of disqualification.
The single bench judge had to then refer the case to a two-judge bench as only a division bench can hear petitions challenging rules, bylaws and amendments, said Prateek Kasliwal, who is representing assembly speaker CP Joshi.
In the petition’s earlier form, Sachin Pilot had argued that missing two meetings of Congress Legislative Party did not amount to defection.
In the amended version, the petition argues that the “expression of dissatisfaction or even disillusionment against the party leadership” cannot be treated as conduct that could be covered under the anti-defection law.
It adds that expression of views and opinions, howsoever strongly worded, cannot be considered to trigger the anti-defection law, “the said clause would not stand the scrutiny and will have to be declared ultra vires the basic structure of the constitution” since it violates the lawmakers freedom of expression, it argues.