HEARING a petition by rebel Congress MLAs led by Sachin Pilot on disqualification notices issued to them by the Speaker, the Rajasthan High Court observed on Monday that a whip can be issued only for an Assembly session but not with respect to a party meeting.
The hearing in the case, by Chief Justice Indrajit Mahanty and Prakash Gupta, could not be concluded and the matter will now be heard on Tuesday. The High Court had earlier allowed the MLAs time till Tuesday 5.30 pm to file their response.
The MLAs have argued that there were no grounds to disqualify them just for missing two meetings of the Congress Legislature Party (CLP).
Appearing for the respondents, including Speaker C P Joshi, Abhishek Manu Singhvi said that the court proceedings were “non-maintainable, premature and without jurisdiction” as far as interim injunctive relief was even contemplated.
He also argued that the Speaker had exclusive, non-transferable and non-delegable powers to adjudicate on issues of disqualification. Singhvi contended that the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution dealing with disqualification – one of whose clauses has been challenged by the rebel MLAs –is designed and intended to be an autonomous, self-contained code to deal with defection and disqualification of members. Singhvi cited various judgments to say that courts have limited grounds of interfering in a Speaker’s order on disqualification.
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Singhvi argued that whether non-attendance of a meeting, criticism of the party, constitute as grounds for disqualification is also for the sole consideration of the Speaker.
Talking to journalists, Joshi’s counsel Prateek Kasliwal said that only a show-cause notice has been issued so far. “Why is it being pre-empted that Speaker will act in the favour of one side?”
The counsel for the petitioners, former Solicitor General of India Harish Salve, asked whether there was any “application of mind” when notices were issued by the Speaker, adding that disqualification notice over an intra-party disagreement was violative of fundamental rights.
Apart from Salve, the MLAs were represented by ex-Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, among others.
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