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[Breaking] Passed in "Unholy Haste, mala fide": Plea in Rajasthan HC seeks to quash Speaker's notice against Sachin Pilot, Congress MLAs

The plea states that "this unholy haste on part of the speaker is malafide and contrary to the assembly legislative rules where minimum seven days time has to be given for a reply."

Debayan Roy

Sachin Pilot and other Congress rebels have moved the Rajasthan High Court against the notice issued by Rajasthan Speaker CP Joshi asking them to explain their "anti-party activities".

Pilot and the other Congress MLAs have challenged the issuance of notice as being a move of "unholy haste" which is "mala fide and contrary to Assembly rules."

The plea of the rebel Congress leader was filed through Advocate Divyesh Maheshwari.

The petition is set to be argued by Senior Advocates Mukul Rohatgi and Harish Salve.

The petition recounts that Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot had ordered an enquiry by the Special Operations Group into the "activities" of the petitioners earlier, which was nothing more than a ploy to threaten the MLAs from raising their voice against the inefficiency within the leadership of the party.

The plea states that by "no stretch of imagination" can a healthy discourse of the pros and cons of the policies sought to be adopted by a political party be construed to mean that the member is voluntarily giving up his membership as contemplated under Para 2 (a) of the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution of India.

It goes on to state that a complaint was later made to the Speaker on July 14 against all the 19 MLAs alleging that they have voluntarily left the Congress party and that they should be disqualified under the Tenth Schedule, which provides for anti-defection laws.

As per the plea, the Speaker, upon receiving the notice, issued notice to all the 19 MLAs on the same day and asked them to file a reply within two days. The Speaker stated that if reply is not filed within this period, which ends tomorrow at 1 pm, then he would decide on the matter ex-parte.

The plea contends that "this unholy haste on part of the Speaker is malafide and contrary to the assembly legislative rules where minimum seven days time has to be given for a reply." It states further,

"There was no tearing hurry. No facts have been laid out that can suggest that these 19 MLAs have left the Congress party. Thus the notice deserves to be quashed and proceeding should be stayed."

The Congress, meanwhile, has Senior Advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi to defend the Speaker.

The notice accuses the rebels of deliberately skipping two Congress Legisative Party meetings at Jaipur and acting in “deliberate collusion to topple the state government.”

The petitioners, however, contend,

"Not attending two party meetings scheduled by the Congress Legislative Party cannot tantamount to fall within the purview of Para (2)(a) of the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution of India so as to renew him/them fit for disqualification on the ground of defection … non-attending of any of the party meetings as also, voicing a difference of opinion outside the House are matters between the Member and his party and have nothing to so so far as the deeming clause of Tenth Schedule is concerned."

The plea further argues that the allegations levelled against the petitioners are baseless and that "no member of prudent mind can come to conclusion that the petitioners have voluntarily given up the membership of the Indian National Congress party."

Further, there is an apprehension that the Speaker may disqualify the rebel MLAs under undue pressure from Chief Minister Gehlot on July 17, without following the procedure of law and without giving them any reasonable opportunity of hearing.

As such, the High Court has been urged to set aside the Speaker's July 14 show-cause notice, declare that the MLAs' actions do not constitute defection, and to uphold their status as members of the Rajasthan Legislative Assembly.

If the rebels can avoid being disqualified and are allowed to vote as Congress members, the Ashok Gehlot-led government could fall. He needs 101 MLAs to vote for him in the 200-member Assembly. Gehlot claims that he has the support of 106 MLAs, which has been contested by team Pilot.

If the rebel MLAs are disqualified, the majority mark will drop, making it easier for Ashok Gehlot to win a floor test.

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