The Supreme Court on Thursday rejected Rajasthan Assembly Speaker CP Joshi’s petition against the High Court’s order to defer action on the disqualification notices sent to 19 rebel legislators, including Sachin Pilot, Bar and Bench reported. The top court said that the Rajasthan High Court can announce its verdict on the petition of rebel MLAs challenging the disqualification notices on July 24.
The High Court will deliver its verdict on the petition on Friday at 10.30 am, according to NDTV.
Justice AK Mishra, however, said that the Supreme Court will hear the case again on July 27 and the High Court’s judgement will be subject to its final verdict.
Senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal, appearing for Joshi, had argued that the Rajasthan High Court could not interfere when the Speaker was deciding the case. “The High Court cannot give any protective order at this stage to the other camp,” he said. Sibal also told the court that the rebels MLAs had skipped party meetings.
“Can a person elected by people not express his dissent?” the top court asked Sibal. “The voice of dissent cannot be suppressed. In a democracy, can somebody be shut down like this?” The top court also asked Sibal why he could not wait for the Rajasthan High Court’s verdict for another day.
In his petition filed on Wednesday, Joshi had said that the disqualification process was part of the Assembly proceedings and the Rajasthan High Court could not have interfered in it by asking him to postpone action against the rebel MLAs.
Joshi had served disqualification notices to the MLAs last week for “anti-party activities”. After the rebel MLAs approached the High Court, Joshi was first asked to defer action by three days. On Tuesday, the Rajasthan High Court said it would announce on July 24 its decision on the rebels’ petition and asked the Speaker to not take a decision on the disqualification notices till the final verdict.
After Joshi’s petition, Pilot’s supporters also moved the top court, requesting a hearing before a decision on disqualification notices served to them is taken.
The Congress government in Rajasthan has been on the brink of collapse after Pilot rebelled against Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and proceeded with a few MLAs to Delhi last week. Pilot was sacked as the Rajasthan deputy chief minister and as the Congress’ state unit chief on July 14. The next day, Assembly Speaker CP Joshi disqualified Pilot and 18 other legislators. The party has accused the BJP of political manoeuvring to topple its government in the state.
On Monday, Gehlot claimed that Pilot was conspiring to topple his administration for the past six months. The chief minister said that Pilot was acting on behalf of the BJP and was given money, “backed by corporate houses from Mumbai”, to bring down the Rajasthan government. Gehlot added that he was in constant touch with party president Sonia Gandhi over the matter, but expressed doubt on the return of Pilot and the rebel MLAs to the party.
On Wednesday, Gehlot wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi alleging that “despicable attempts” were being made by the BJP to destabilise his government through horse-trading. Gehlot said Union Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat was among those who were trying to bribe rebel Congress MLAs in his state.