SC refuses to restrain Rajasthan HC from passing Friday order on rebel Cong MLAs’ plea

SC says there is a 'large question' of functioning of democracy involved

SC refuses to restrain Rajasthan HC from passing Friday order on rebel Cong MLAs’ plea

Photo for representation only

Satya Prakash
Tribune News Service
New Delhi, July 23 

The Supreme Court on Thursday refused to restrain the Rajasthan High Court from delivering its verdict on rebel Congress MLAs’ petition challenging the disqualification proceedings initiated against them by state Assembly Speaker CP Joshi.

Nineteen rebel Congress MLAs, including sacked Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot, have challenged the validity of Speaker CP Joshi’s decision to issue show-cause notices to them under the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution i.e. the anti-defection law.

Also read: Petition challenging disqualification proceedings: ‘Breather’ till Monday; prolonged stand-off my help BJP and Pilot

“Let the high court deliver the verdict tomorrow,” a Bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra said.

However, the top court made it clear that the high court’s judgment will be subject to the outcome of the proceedings before it.

Noting that there was a large question of the functioning of the democracy, the Bench said it will further hear the matter on July 27.

The top court is seized of Rajasthan Speaker CP Joshi’s petition challenging the state high court’s decision to defer its decision, on rebel Congress MLAs’ petition, to July 24.

The Bench told senior advocate Kapil Sibal, representing the Speaker, that it intended to adjourn his plea as it was a “serious matter” which required a “prolonged hearing”.

It didn’t agree to Sibal’s demand to stay further proceedings in Rajasthan HC until the matter is decided by the Supreme Court.

Sibal contended that no judicial authority could go into whether an MLA will be disqualified for not attending party meetings outside the  House.

“Speaker will decide disqualification petition and then only it can be challenged,” he said.

“Nobody can say what Speaker will decide tomorrow,” the Bench commented.

On behalf of the rebel Congress MLAs, senior advocates Harish Salve and Mukul Rohatgi submitted that the Speaker had twice agreed to defer disqualification proceedings when the matter was pending in the high court.

“He can wait for the next 24 hours,” Rohatgi said.

During the hearing, the Bench raised the issue of intra-party democracy.

“This is not a simple matter and these MLAs are elected representatives... Voice of dissent in democracy cannot be shut down,” the Bench said, adding, “We are trying to find out whether this process (disqualification) was permissible or not.”

Sibal responded by saying, “These MLAs had gone to Haryana, stayed at a hotel and gave TV bytes that they want floor test.”

The Rajasthan political crisis reached the Supreme Court on Wednesday with the speaker challenging the high court’s order “directing” him to postpone till July 24 the disqualification proceedings against 19 rebel Congress MLAs.

In his petition, Joshi urged the top court to set aside the high court’s order, contending it was “bad in law” and “a direct affront to the powers  of the Legislature and the Speaker envisaged under the Constitution.”

Contending that the disqualification process was a part of the assembly proceedings, Joshi said the high court could not have asked him to defer it till Friday, particularly because he had already extended twice the deadline to receive replies of rebel Congress MLAs.

The disqualification proceedings under anti-defection law i.e. paragraph 2(1)(a) of the 10th Schedule of the Constitution was initiated against the 19 MLAs after the Congress Legislature Party complained to the Speaker that they had defied a whip to attend two meetings last week.

The rebel Congress MLAs contended that a party whip applied only during the assembly session.

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