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The Supreme Court, however, said that the judgment of the High Court will be subject to the orders passed by the Apex Court finally.
The Supreme Court today agreed to hear at length the plea filed by Rajasthan Speaker CP Joshi in the case concerning disqualification notices served on Sachin Pilot and 18 other MLAs. In the meantime, there will be no restraint on the proceedings before the Rajasthan High Court (The Hon'ble Speaker, Rajasthan Legislative Assembly v. Prithviraj Meena & Ors).
However, the Supreme Court made it clear that the judgment of the High Court will be subject to the Apex Court's verdict. The High Court will deliver its judgment in the matter on Friday, July 24.
The Bench of Justices Arun Mishra, BR Gavai, and Krishna Murari today refused to stay the order of the Rajasthan High Court or even transfer the matter from the High Court to itself.
Rajasthan Assembly Speaker CP Joshi had moved the Supreme Court against the order of the Rajasthan High Court that "directed" the Speaker to refrain from proceeding against Pilot and other rebel Congress MLAs till the High Court pronounces its order.
Senior Counsel Kapil Sibal, appearing for the Speaker, told the Court today that the challenge is mounted against the High Court's order as it passed an order with "directions" for the Speaker, which is beyond High Court's jurisdiction.
Referring to the Kihoto Hollohan case, Sibal argued that the Paragraph 6 of the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution renders a finality clause to the decision of the Speaker. In light of this, the order of the Rajasthan High Court is not valid, Sibal argued.
The final decision of the Speaker is subject to review, albeit on limited grounds, but the proceedings prior to the final decision are not subject to the intervention of the Court, Sibal further submitted.
He added that the judgment in Kihoto Hollohan states that the Court can interdict only if the disqualification proceedings are initiated by the Speaker after the Court has already intervened in a matter. That is not the matter in the instant case, the Senior Counsel argued. He added that the disqualification proceedings are merely at a stage of issuance of notice at present, and therefore, the High Court's order is in the teeth of Kihoto Hollohan.
Sibal also cited the recent judgment passed by a three-Judge Bench headed by Justice Rohinton Nariman in January this year, where the Speaker of the Manipur Assembly was requested by the Court to decide on a disqualification petition within a reasonable time. He said,
"Even Justice RF Nariman heading a three-judge Bench had ruled that Speaker can be directed to take a decision on proceedings but not extend protective cover (for the MLA)."
The Bench inquired how the Kihoto Hollohan case becomes relevant in the instant case, considering that here,the Chief Whip of the party is involved, not the Speaker. Sibal said that the Chief Whip filed a disqualification petition against the rebel MLAs based on which the Speaker issued show cause notices to them. The notice was for indulging in "anti-party activities" which demonstrated that Pilot and 18 other MLAs wished to part ways with the Indian National Congress.
The Court sought to venture into the question of why the Speaker was approached for disqualification, and why the Congress party itself did not take a decision on the same. Sibal said that this was not an arena for courts to delve into.
Circling back to the main question of whether or not courts can issue directions to a Speaker, Sibal said that the distinction made in Justice Nariman's judgment of January 2020 is that the Speaker was requested to decide on the disqualification petition. The words "direct" and "direction" from the Rajasthan High Court's order of July 21 must be suspended as such, Sibal argued.
At this point, Justice Gavai said,
"You were only requested by High Court to wait till July 24."
"Suspend the words "direction" from the (High Court's) order... the Court cannot do this. It is against the Constitution Bench verdict (in Kihoto Hollohan case)."
The Court opined that the question involved in the plea needed a detailed hearing. Agreeing with the same, Sibal sought for a stay on the order of the High Court. Since the Court was disinclined to stay the High Court order, Sibal alternatively sought for the matter before the High Court to be transferred to the Supreme Court. However, this too was rejected by the Court.
Senior Advocates Harish Salve and Mukul Rohatgi, representing Pilot's rebel faction, told the Court that the Speaker himself had deferred the proceedings on his own volition twice. Moreover, the submissions made by the Speaker before the High Court was that no fresh notices will be issued.
The Supreme Court eventually ordered that while there will be no restraint on the Rajasthan High Court in proceeding with the matter, its judgment will be subject to the outcome of the proceedings before the Apex Court.
The Court will hear the matter next on July 27.