The Supreme Court (SC) on Thursday (July 23) heard Rajasthan Assembly Speaker CP Joshi’s petition challenging Rajasthan High Court order barring Joshi from conducting disqualification proceedings against Sachin Pilot and 18 other rebel Congress MLAs, till July 24 (Friday).
During the hearing, the SC asked Kapil Sibal, who appeared for Rajasthan Speaker CP Joshi, “On what grounds disqualification was sought?”
Sibal responded saying that the dissident MLAs failed to attend party meet and indulging in anti-party activities. The MLAs are in a Haryana hotel, incommunicado and called for floor test against their own party.
Sibal started the argument by saying, “The court cannot direct the Speaker to extend the time to file their replies to the anti-defection notices. It’s not in the jurisdiction of the court. Rajasthan HC was wrong in issuing a direction to the Speaker. This is against settled law on this point.”
Sibal said that sweeping discretion is available with the Speaker and his decision on disqualification may be subject to judicial review, but the Court has no power on anything that happens before the disqualification process.
The SC asks Sibal, “Can’t the court interfere if the Speaker disqualifies an MLA?” Sibal responded saying, “Yes, but intervention can only be after the decisions are taken.”
Sibal also said that the Speaker cannot be directed to extend the time to file their replies to the anti-defection notices. He argued that this is beyond the the jurisdiction of the court.
Sibal said, “The argument is that prior to the decision of the Speaker, no intervention by court can be done unless there is a suspension by the Speaker or an interlocutory disqualification happens.”
The SC bench then asked Sibal has the high court heard the matter on the interlocutory disqualification issue? Sibal responded saying that the HC has heard the issue and it’s part of grounds in Speaker’s petition.
Sibal said that why the rebel MLAs can’t go to court saying that Speaker cannot issue notice. He claimed that all MLAs are in Haryana and incommunicado.
“Whip moves a notice when a member voluntarily wishes to leave, or indicates it. Sachin Pilot camp had talked to media and said they wanted a floor test. Their actions conveyed that they wished to leave – refused to attend party, went to a hotel in Haryana and were incommunicado,” Sibal said.
Supreme Court asks, “Has the party accepted the resignation. We have to decide whether this is permissible.”
The SC also asked Sibal that HC is set to deliver verdict on July 24, then why can’t Speaker Joshi wait for one more day.
The top court also asked Sibal’s view on intra-party democracy. Sibal responded saying, “It is for the MLAs to explain. They should come back and say they were in a vacation. They are exercising free speech, etc. The apex court asks if a whip can be issued for attending a party meeting. Sibal denies Speaker CP Joshi issued a whip for the meeting and says, it was only a notice not a whip.”