Rajasthan Assembly Speaker CP Joshi on Wednesday moved the Supreme Court against the Rajasthan High Court’s decision to maintain status quo on the disqualification notices served to former Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot and 19 dissident Congress legislators, Live Law reported.
The High Court order of July 24 had put the disqualification procedure on hold till the Supreme Court passed its verdict on the Speaker’s plea. However, Joshi on Monday withdrew his plea in the top court, minutes before the hearing was supposed to begin.
The fresh plea, filed by advocate Sunil Fernandes, stated that the High Court’s order was a “direct intrusion” into the domain exclusively reserved for the Speaker under the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution, otherwise known as the anti-defection law. It said the order was, therefore, “ex-facie unconstitutional”.
Joshi called the High Court’s order “in the teeth of the law” laid down in paragraph 110 and 111 of the “Kihoto Hollohan vs Zachillhu” ruling – that limited the options available to the court to interfere by way of judicial review. The plea added that under the 1992 judgement, only the final decision of the Speaker is amenable, with the only exception being if there is an interim order passed by the Speaker disqualifying or suspending a member of the house.
It said the order was a direct interference into the proceedings of the House under the Tenth Schedule, which is prohibited under Article 212 of the Constitution. It argued that since the notice issued by the Speaker was “merely a procedural step” and not a final decision on disqualification, the court is restrained from interfering in the same. Article 212 states that the courts are not to inquire into proceedings of the Legislature.
The plea further submitted that the impugned order is “completely non reasoned” and does not reveal any reasons for passing the status quo order. Therefore, the High Court has acted in “gross judicial indiscipline and judicial impropriety” in seeking to reopen settled issues decided by a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court in the Kihoto judgment, the plea said.
Earlier this month, the Supreme Court rejected another plea filed by the Speaker contending 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. 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 Congress government in Rajasthan has been on the brink of collapse ever since former Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot rebelled against Gehlot and proceeded with a few MLAs to Delhi earlier this month. 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 sent disqualification notices to Pilot and 18 other legislators.
The notices were served after the MLAs 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 filings before the Rajasthan High Court, 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 make them liable for disqualification on the ground of defection. They added that elected representatives of the people cannot be removed from his post on the whims and fancies of their party’s leadership.
The Congress has 107 MLAs in the Rajasthan Assembly – including the six Bahujan Samaj Party turncoats – following Pilot’s revolt. The majority mark in the 200-member House is 101.