In further relief to the rebel Congress camp of former Rajasthan Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot, the Rajasthan High Court directed Friday that status quo as of July 14 be maintained on notices sent by Assembly Speaker CP Joshi to the 19 MLAs led by Pilot.
The direction effectively means that rebel MLAs will not be required to submit their reply to the Speaker and no action can be taken against them till the hearing resumes in the Supreme Court on July 27.
“It means that the respondents need not file their reply before the Speaker, and possibly, the Speaker can’t proceed further. So, the position on (July) 14th is maintained till any order is passed by the Supreme Court,” said lawyer Prateek Kasliwal, who is representing Speaker Joshi.
The Speaker had earlier moved the Supreme Court against the High Court order, which had asked him to give the rebel MLAs time till July 24 to reply to the notices.
The interim order was passed by a division bench comprising Chief Justice Indrajit Mahanty and Justice Prakash Gupta. The bench also accepted the request by the 19 rebel MLAs to make the Centre a party to the case.
In New Delhi, Congress leader Kapil Sibal, who is a senior advocate, questioned the Rajasthan High Court’s order saying it has “no jurisdiction to pass such an order.”
He told reporters: “A very sad situation that has arisen… is that Constitution Bench judgments are not being followed by High Courts. We know for a fact that there is a five-judge decision of the Supreme Court of India which says that if a disqualification petition is filed, the Speaker will decide that disqualification petition and his decision can be challenged in a court of law but prior to his decision, proceedings by the Speaker are proceedings within the House under Article 212 of the Constitution… and those proceedings cannot be interfered with.”
“That is the decision in the Kihoto Hollohan case as far back as 1992. And in this particular case, in Rajasthan, there is a status quo order passed this morning saying that those proceedings will not go on in the teeth of Kihoto Hollohan,” he said.
Sibal said “we will take whatever legal proceedings we have to take but the point is… Are judgments of the Supreme Court binding on the High Courts. Or are they not?… That judgement says two things… what it says is that the moment the disqualification petition is filed… till the time the Speaker decides the disqualification petitions… these will be deemed to be proceedings in the House. And no order of a court can interfere in those proceedings to protect those against whom proceedings have been taken… That is (the verdict of) five judges of the Supreme Court and yet a status quo order has been passed,” he said.
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