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Rajasthan crisis: No action against Sachin Pilot, other Cong rebel MLAs till Tuesday, says HC

A Special Operations Group (SOG) team of Rajasthan Police on Friday evening reached a hotel in Gurgaon, where some of the rebel Congress MLAs are said to be holed up.

By: Express Web Desk | Jaipur, New Delhi | Updated: July 17, 2020 7:52:57 pm
Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot with former Deputy Chief Minister and Rajasthan Pradesh Congress Committee President Sachin Pilot.

In what is a four-day reprieve to Sachin Pilot and 18 other Congress MLAs, the Rajasthan High Court Friday directed the Assembly Speaker to not take any action against them till Tuesday.  The court will resume the hearing on the petitions challenging the disqualification notices of Pilot and others Monday.

The counsel for the Speaker assured the court that no order would be passed on the disqualification notices till 5.30 pm on Tuesday. Earlier, Speaker C P Joshi had informed the court that the notices would not be acted upon till 5 pm on Friday.

The court was hearing the petitions challenging the notices that were served by the Speaker based on a complaint by the ruling party that the rebel MLAs had defied a party whip to attend two Congress Legislature Party meetings, on Monday and Tuesday. The court of Chief Justice Indrajit Mahanty and Justice Prakash Gupta also asked Congress chief whip Mahesh Joshi, who had filed the complaint before the Speaker, to respond to the dissidents’ petition by Saturday.

During Friday’s hearing, advocate Harish Salve, who is representing the Pilot camp, said the the petitioner (Pilot) raised his voice against the “dictatorship” of CM Gehlot and placed the matter before the central governing body of the party. This was in exercise of freedom of speech of legislators and did not amount to ‘defection’, he added, according to Live Law.

Rajasthan crisis, Rajasthan government crisis, Ashok Gehlot close aides, Sachin Pilot Ashok Gehlot tiff, India news, Indian Express Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot (C) with senior Congress leaders Randeep Surjewala, Avinash Pandey, Ajay Maken and K.C. Venugopal flashes victory sign during a meeting with the party MLAs at his residence in Jaipur, last Monday. (PTI Photo)

Continuing his arguments, Salve said the disqualification notices were an attempt to stifle ‘freedom of speech’ and internal discussions. “Whip is not applicable to meetings at homes and hotels; only applies to proceedings within House,” Salve was quoted as saying by Live Law. The acts outside the House are not violation of anti-defection law, Congress dissident MLAs’ advocate Harish Salve said in the court.

Explained | What next in the Rajasthan government crisis?

In its complaint to the Speaker, the Congress had sought action against the Pilot camp under paragraph 2 (1) (a) of the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution. The provision disqualifies MLAs if they “voluntarily” give up the membership of a party which they represent in the House.

The Congress claimed that they could draw this inference from the rebel MLAs’ conduct. But the dissident camp says Pilot never indicated any intention to leave the party.

FIRs lodged on complaints of horse-trading, SOG team reaches Manesar hotel

The Rajasthan Police registered two FIRs on Friday based on a complaint lodged by the Congress over the alleged conspiracy to bring down the Ashok Gehlot government through horse-trading of MLAs.

Following this, a Special Operations Group team of Rajasthan Police left for Manesar in Haryana to record statements of the Congress MLAs who were purportedly heard talking in a viral audio clip about horse-trading of legislators by the BJP to topple the Gehlot government in Rajasthan. The dissident Congress legislators, supporting Pilot, are holed up in a resort in Manesar.

Sachin Pilot Rajasthan, Rajasthan Congress, Rajasthan Congress, Congress Sachin Pilot, Ashok Gehlot Sachin Pilot, Congress MLA sachin pilot Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot addresses the media outside a hotel, in Jaipur, Wednesday. (Photo: PTI)

“Two audio tapes surfaced last night on the so-called conversation of Union Minister Gajendra Singh, Congress MLA Bhanwarlal Sharma and BJP leader Sanjay Jain. The conspiracy to topple the Congress government is clear through the so-called conversation. This is a black chapter in the history of democracy,” Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said.

The Congress leader also said that if there are any chances of influencing the investigation by misusing his Union minister’s post, then Shekhawat should be arrested by obtaining a warrant. He added that a similar action must be taken against Sharma and Jain. Apart from those who have been named in the conversation in the audio tapes, Surjewala demanded a probe to find out whether any other person or MLA is involved in the alleged exchange of money for toppling the government.

Cracking the whip, Congress also removed two of its MLAs, Bhanwarlal Sharma and Vishvendra Singh, from its primary membership for allegedly being involved in the conspiracy.

‘Voice in audio clip not mine, ready for probe’: Union minister denies role in Rajasthan ‘horse trading’

Union Minister Shekhawat Friday dismissed the Congress’ allegations that he was involved in an alleged conspiracy to topple the Gehlot government in Rajasthan. While the ruling party has filed an FIR against him, the BJP leader said the voice in the purported audio clips did not belong to him and that he was ready was a probe in the matter.

“It is not my voice. I don’t know which Sanjay Jain they are talking about. I know many people in that name. If I had talked to someone, my number should be there. You can conduct a probe. I am ready for an investigation,” Shekhawat said.

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