“Voice of dissent in a democracy cannot be shut down”, the Supreme Court said on Thursday as it sought reasons from Rajasthan Assembly Speaker CP Joshi for initiating disqualification proceedings against 19 rebel Congress MLAs, including sacked deputy chief minister Sachin Pilot.
The apex court’s observation came when senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for Joshi, said the MLAs skipped party meetings and conspired to destabilise their own government.
A bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra said: “This is not a simple matter and these MLAs are elected representatives.”
“Voice of dissent in democracy cannot be shut down, the bench observed. “We are trying to find out whether this process (disqualification) was permissible or not.”
The same bench comprising Justices Arun Mishra, B R Gavai, and Krishna Murari is also hearing a suo moto criminal contempt case against advocate Prashant Bhushan over two of his tweets, which the court says had “brought the administration of justice in disrepute”.
The bench had issued notices to Bhushan, Attorney General K K Venugopal and sought a reply from Twitter Incorporated, USA.
The complaint against Bhushan was registered over a June 29 tweet by him on a photo of Chief Justice of India SA Bobde astride a Harley Davidson motorcycle. While taking up the matter for hearing, the bench also took note of another tweet by Bhushan on June 27 regarding the judiciary which it said was published Wednesday in The Times of India.
“We are, prima facie, of the view that the aforesaid statements on Twitter have brought the administration of justice in disrepute and are capable of undermining the dignity and authority of the Institution of Supreme Court in general and the office of the Chief Justice of India in particular, in the eyes of public at large,” the bench had said.
In the Rajasthan case, meanwhile, the Supreme Court refused to stop the Rajasthan High Court verdict on a petition by Sachin Pilot and 18 other rebel Congress MLAs challenging disqualification notices. Rajasthan Assembly Speaker CP Joshi in his plea alleged that the high court cannot interdict the disqualification proceedings undertaken by him under 10th schedule of the Constitution. The High Court verdict will come out tomorrow.
A bench of Justices Arun Mishra, B R Gavai and Krishna Murari said Joshi’s plea raises important questions and requires prolonged hearing. “We are not restraining the High Court from passing the order but it will be subject to the outcome of the petition (of Speaker) before the Supreme Court,” the bench said, while fixing the plea for hearing on July 27.
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