In a huge relief for Sachin Pilot and 18 rebel Congress MLAs, the Rajasthan High Court on Friday made Centre a party in the case against Congress in the petition filed by team Pilot against the disqualification notice served by the Speaker.
With this, anti-defection proceedings against the rebels is expected to be delayed further.
Additional Solicitor General (ASG) will represent Centre in the court, said Assembly Speaker CP Joshi’s counsel, Prateek Kasliwal.
The application was moved by Pilot on the ground that Tenth Schedule’s constitutional validity was under challenge and therefore, the Union of India was a necessary party.
The Rajasthan High Court also ordered status quo to be maintained in the disqualification case against Sachin Pilot and 18 rebel MLAs.
In a petition filed on Wednesday, Congress MLA Prithviraj Meena sought the Centre to be impleaded in the ongoing case filed by the Pilot camp challenging Para 2 (1) (a) of the Schedule X of the Constitution.
In his petition, he said, “It is humbly prayed that Union of India through The Secretary, Ministry of Law and Justice (Department of Legal Affairs), be made a Party Respondent to the present writ petition in the interest of justice and law.”
Today’s order comes as the Supreme Court on Thursday rejected the Rajasthan Speaker’s petition to interfere in the High Court’s order to defer anti-defection proceedings against former Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot and 18 rebel Congress MLAs, saying that “the voice of dissent in a democracy cannot be suppressed”.
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for Rajasthan Assembly Speaker CP Joshi, had argued that the high court “cannot direct” the Speaker to extend the time to file replies to the anti-defection notices and the court was wrong as “it is not in it’s jurisdiction”.
On this, the Supreme Court questioned the grounds on which disqualification was sought.
To this, the Speaker’s counsel replied: “MLAs didn’t attend party meet; they were indulging in anti-party activities. They were in a Haryana hotel, incommunicado and sought floor test against their own party”.
The top court responded by asking if a person elected by people could not express his dissent.
Justice AK Mishra, without referring to the Rajasthan crisis said, “Assume a leader has lost the faith of persons. While remaining in party they cannot be disqualified. Then this will become a tool and no one can raise their voice. The voice of dissent in a democracy cannot be suppressed like this”.
The Supreme Court further observed that Speaker CP Joshi was only requested by the Rajasthan High Court to wait till July 24.
The top court concluded its hearing saying that the Rajasthan High Court can pass orders on rebel MLAs plea against disqualification notice from the Speaker.
Following the verdict, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot told reporters that an assembly session would be called “very soon” and indicated that the Congress is contemplating to go in for a floor test to establish its majority.
“We have a majority and will call a session soon as the Congress MLAs are standing together,” he said.
He, according to a report in NDTV, also met Governor Kalraj Mishra last evening and claimed that he “has the numbers” to prove majority.
Moving the Supreme Court against the Rajasthan High Court order on Wednesday, Speaker CP Joshi had warned that the rebels were “heading for a constitutional crisis”.
In a respite for the Sachin Pilot camp for the second time, the Rajasthan High Court on Tuesday asked the Assembly Speaker not to take any action against them till Friday when it will deliver its order on their petition.
The high court hearing began last Friday but was then adjourned till Monday and the Speaker was asked not to take any action against the petitioners till Tuesday.
After Sachin Pilot and the rebel MLAs gave the second CLP meeting a miss on July 14, the Congress announced the removal of Pilot as the Deputy Chief Minister as well as the Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) chief.
The Congress government is witnessing a major crisis after Sachin Pilot announced that the Gehlot government was in minority and claimed the support of 30 MLAs.