Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi.(Sonu Mehta)
Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi.(Sonu Mehta)

Why can’t Gehlot wait for floor test: Mukul Rohatgi

Mukul Rohatgi is appearing for Sachin Pilot and the dissident MLAs.
By Sunetra Choudhury | Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON JUL 25, 2020 04:18 AM IST

The Rajasthan High Court on Friday admitted the plea of the state’s former deputy chief minister Sachin Pilot and 18 legislators allied with him (and against chief minister Ashok Gehlot) against their disqualification proceedings, and asked the assembly speaker to maintain status quo, effectively putting the proceedings on hold. The Supreme Court is already hearing a case on the high court’s jurisdiction in the matter. Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for Pilot and the dissident MLAs, spoke to Sunetra Choudhury on is reading of the situation. Edited excerpts:

What is the takeaway from the Rajasthan HC order?

It’s a very significant order. The bottom line of the case is this: if an MLA raises his voice and a voice of dissent against the CM or another senior functionary of the party to which he belongs for legitimate reasons, say putting a demand of his electorate which is not being looked at or to strengthen inner-party democracy, does this act of dissent make an MLA liable to lose his seat for which he has been elected for five years?

That is the question.

So, suppose Mr Pilot was going to the rally of an opposition party and saying dismiss the government, that may be a clear incident of him leaving the party. But a mere dissent by an MLA against his leader while remaining in the party, cannot be grounds for being chucked out.

Pilot and the dissidents have made the Centre a party to the proceedings? Isn’t that an indication of him being with BJP?

No, no, it’s the wrong assumption. Whenever a provision of the law or the constitution is challenged, it is incumbent on the party to involve the government of India because the GoI has to defend its laws and the constitution. In fact, the petition will not be properly constituted if the union of India is not added. It should have been done in the first instance but since it was done in a hurry, it wasn’t . It is mandatory else the petition is likely to get rejected.

Also Read: The HC has no regard for precedent: Kapil Sibal

The big debate today is on the Rajasthan governor not calling for a session. Does he have leeway to decide this or is he bound by the government?

The governor is a constitutional functionary. He is not sitting there only at the beck and call of the chief minister. He has some discretion. Why and when he will call the house, he will have the reasons -- I don’t know, I am not privy to what’s happening . From what I’ve read, the Governor is entitled to say ‘Let’s not hold the session for the next two weeks because of the onset of Covid’. There are a large number of people infected with Covid and to bring 200 or 250 people into the house, into one room and debate for 10 hours or 20 hours and then have another 100 people, the employees of the assembly, there... .

It’s not as if the opposition is asking for a floor test, so that the government falls. It is the man himself (CM) who is asking for a floor test, so he can jolly well wait for 10 days or 20 days if the Governor so desires. What’s the urgency?

Also Read: Not held hostage, say 3 MLAs

The contention is that it gives the other side time to lure away MLAs?

There is no question . In Madhya Pradesh there was a wafer thin majority. Gehlot is saying his majority is more than 25. If his majority is more than 25, what is the fear? Why can’t he keep his people together if it is that many? He wants a floor test for himself, to assure himself that he has more than 25. In MP and in other cases, the opposition wanted a floor test to pull down the government. Here there is nobody who is saying they have more than him.

But the fact that the BJP is saying that Pilot is welcome to join him...

I am not a political expert and I don’t know who is inviting who. Whatever I have seen of Mr PIlot, he doesn’t want to join the BJP.

What is the strategy of your client now? If there is a session called, will he attend?

I haven’t spoken to Mr Pilot on those issues. I have only dealt with him on the issue of disqualification.

But what does he say about the contention that he’s stopping 18 MLAs from attending the CLP?

That’s not akin to leaving the party voluntarily. 19MLAs are not ostriches, they are together because they believe in something, that’s their position.

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