The Supreme Court on Thursday held that the Rajasthan High Court can pass an order on former Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot and other MLAs’ plea against disqualification notice issued against them by the State Assembly Speaker.
A three-judge bench of Justice Arun Mishra, Justice BR Gavai and Justice Krishna Murari refused to intervene in the proceedings before the Rajasthan High Court in the matter. The bench, which was hearing an SLP filed by the State Assembly Speaker CP Joshi against the interim order of the Rajasthan High Court in the matter, said the High Court order will be subject to the final outcome of the plea before the top court.
Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for Sachin Pilot, said that if the Speaker can himself agree to defer twice, why can’t he wait for another 24 hours? Senior advocate Harish Salve, who was also appearing for Pilot and the other MLAs, also argued that the Speaker had deferred the proceedings before him on his own twice in the past. “Issues of jurisdiction and maintainability have been argued before the High Court. Having appeared and argued there, why should Speaker now ask High Court not to decide?” Salve said.
The apex court observed that these are important questions relating to democracy. “How will democracy function? These are very serious issues. It’s not just about the disqualification of some persons. We want to hear it,” the bench said.
Appearing for Assembly Speaker CP Joshi, senior lawyer Kapil Sibal submitted that the court cannot direct the Speaker to extend the time for the MLAs to file their replies on the anti-defection notices.
“It is not in the jurisdiction of the court. The Rajasthan High Court was wrong in issuing a direction to the Speaker. This is against settled law on this point. The High Court had no jurisdiction until Speaker decided on the plea of Pilot and other MLAs’ anti-defection proceedings,” Sibal submitted.
Justice Mishra asked Sibal if a person elected by the people cannot express his dissent. “Voice of dissent cannot be suppressed. In a democracy can somebody be shut down like this?” Justice Mishra said.
Joshi had approached the top court with an SLP against the interim order of the Rajasthan High Court, which had on Tuesday asked Speaker CP Joshi to defer the proceedings pending before him on the disqualification notices issued to Pilot and 18 MLAs of his faction, and put off the verdict on the matter till July 24.
The Speaker had earlier sent notices to Pilot and 18 MLAs under the anti-defection law after the chief whip’s application for their disqualification. MLAs were earlier asked to present before Assembly Speaker on July 17, but the same was deferred in view of the hearing before the High Court.
The development had come even as Rajasthan Congress is in turmoil after simmering differences between Pilot and Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot came out in the open.