A two-judge bench of the Rajasthan High Court will hear former Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot’s amended petition against his disqualification as MLA, at 1 pm on Friday, the Hindustan Times reported on Thursday.
The court on Thursday granted time to Pilot and 18 other rebel MLAs to file a fresh petition challenging the disqualification notices they were issued by Assembly Speaker CP Joshi, PTI reported. The court made the ruling after the petitioners sought time to amend their original petition. Later in the evening, the petitioners filed the fresh application.
Mahesh Joshi, chief whip of the Congress in the Rajasthan legislature, has also asked the High Court for permission to be heard in the matter. Joshi’s counsel NK Mallo confirmed that the hearing had been deferred to 1 pm on Friday.
The Congress had on July 14 removed Pilot as the deputy chief minister and the Rajasthan Congress president, after he failed to attend two Legislature Party meetings Gehlot had called. The Congress has accused Pilot of being involved in horse-trading with the Bharatiya Janata Party. Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot has also personally attacked the 42-year-old leader, claiming that merely speaking good English, giving good television bytes and being handsome was not enough in politics. However, Pilot has repeatedly denied speculation that he will switch over to the BJP.
Following the Congress’ failure to get Pilot and his supporters back on board, Joshi disqualified 19 MLAs, including Pilot, on Wednesday and issued them notices.
The petitioners said in their first plea on Thursday that none of them had expressed an explicit or implicit desire to leave the Congress. “Petitioners continue to express their allegiance to the party and are in no manner seeking to defect [to] any other party, much less bring down the government of which they have been part of,” the plea said. It added that an elected representative of the people cannot be removed from his post on the whims and fancies of his party’s leadership.
The petitioners also made the allegation that Gehlot had ordered an inquiry by the Special Operations Group of the Rajasthan Police, which they described as “no more than a ploy to threaten the petitioners and other MLAs from raising their voice against the inefficiency of the leadership in the party”. They also claimed that they do not expect any justice from the Speaker as he is under the “influence” of Gehlot.
Senior advocate Harish Salve, representing Pilot’s group in the High Court on Thursday, said the dissident MLAs want to challenge the constitutional validity of disqualification notices issued by Joshi, Bar and Bench reported. He added that Pilot will challenge the anti-defection law enshrined in the Tenth Schedule to the Indian Constitution.
Advocate Divyesh Maheswari filed the petition on behalf of Todabhim MLA Prithviraj Meena, against Joshi’s decision disqualifying Meena. The Speaker was represented by lawyer Siddharth Bapna.