The Congress on Monday told the Rajasthan High Court that it cannot interfere before a decision is made by Assembly Speaker CP Joshi on the disqualification notices issued to Sachin Pilot and 18 other rebel Congress MLAs, Live Law reported. Last week, the court had directed the Speaker to defer his action on the disqualification notices till Tuesday evening.
A bench comprising Chief Justice Indrajit Mahanty and Justice Prakash Gupta resumed the hearing on Monday morning.
Senior advocate and Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi, representing the Speaker, said courts have no jurisdiction over the disqualification of any member. “The Speaker’s decision to initiate disqualification proceedings are not amenable to judicial review,” he added. “Can Speaker order that proceedings of the court be video recorded?”
Singhvi said the Speaker’s order can be challenged only on limited grounds but those are not mentioned in the petition, according to ANI. He added that the freedom of speech of a member is not an absolute freedom.
“The Speaker can do right or wrong,” Singhvi said. “The Speaker has the right to be wrong. This petition is based on the show cause notice issued by the Speaker. Unless Speaker has disqualified you, you cannot approach in the interim.”
He argued that the MLAs will have different points and the Speaker has to decide on an individual basis. Singhvi further pointed out that the Supreme Court had upheld the disqualification of 17 dissident Congress and Janata Dal (Secular) legislators by then Karnataka Assembly Speaker KR Ramesh Kumar under the anti-defection law in November. “Failure to attend the party meeting was also a ground for attracting defection,” he added.
On July 17, the court had also allowed Congress chief whip Mahesh Joshi, who had filed the plea for disqualification, to be impleaded as a party in the case and asked him to file his reply by the next day.
The notices were served to Pilot and the rebel leaders after the MLAs had defied a whip to attend two Congress Legislature Party meetings to resolve the political crisis in the state. However, the MLAs said that a party whip applies only when the Assembly is in session. In their petition, the legislators sought to quash the notices, arguing that they had neither given up their membership of the House nor did their failure to attend two Congress meetings makes them liable for disqualification on the ground of defection. 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.
Pilot was sacked as deputy chief minister and the president of the state unit of the party on July 14 after he rebelled against Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot.