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Sachin Pilot gets respite from court, another CLP meeting held in Jaipur

The Jaipur Bench of Rajasthan High Court which is hearing on the petition of Sachin Pilot and rebel Congress MLAs against Assembly Speaker's notice.

The Jaipur Bench of Rajasthan High Court which is hearing on the petition of Sachin Pilot and rebel Congress MLAs against Assembly Speaker's notice.   | Photo Credit: Rohit Jain Paras

Rebel Congress leader and former Deputy CM Sachin Pilot on Tuesday got a respite from the Rajasthan High Court, which asked State Assembly Speaker C.P. Joshi not to take a decision on the disqualification notices issued by him to the 19 dissident MLAs till July 24. The Speaker was scheduled to decide on the matter by Tuesday evening.

Upon completion of the hearing on a writ petition moved by Mr. Pilot and 18 other MLAs, challenging the Speaker’s notices of July 14, a two-judge Division Bench reserved its verdict for July 24. The High Court had last Friday given a four-day reprieve to the Pilot camp from any action by the Assembly Speaker.

The Hindu’s Editorial on Rajasthan crisis

“We request the Speaker, who has been pleased to extend the period for filing reply by the writ petitioners till 5:30 p.m. as of today, to extend the said period till the delivery of orders by this court on July 24, 2020, and we direct accordingly,” said the Bench, comprising Chief Justice Indrajit Mahanty and Justice Prakash Gupta, in its four-page order.

The Speaker's office responded immediately by stating that it would respect the “dignity of judiciary”.

Also read: Analysis | Does Ashok Gehlot’s outburst against Sachin Pilot deliver a message to Congress’ central leadership?

“In view of the matter being sub judice, the Speaker has deferred the action on notices served on 19 MLAs till July 24 evening,” said a statement issued after Mr. Joshi consulted legal experts.

The Bench, which heard the arguments for three days, took on record the written submissions from both sides. The Speaker had issued notices to the MLAs after the Congress Chief Whip, Mahesh Joshi, complained to him that the legislators had defied a whip to attend two Congress Legislature Party (CLP) meetings held last week.

Also read: What more could Congress give to Sachin Pilot: Chhattisgarh CM Bhupesh Baghel

The court also allowed the application of an NGO Public Against Corruption, as an intervener in the case with the plea that the matter would have a wide public impact in view of the anti-defection law under Tenth Schedule of the Constitution being challenged. The interveners contended that they were concerned with the public interest at large.

Meanwhile the Congress party held another CLP meeting at the luxury hotel where all its MLAs have been sequestered since the political turmoil began. Mr. Pilot and 19 MLAs backing him did not attend.

Also read: Analysis | Sachin Pilot revolt brings into focus Congress’s leadership battles across States

Calling upon the Congress legislators to “stand like a rock”, Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot told the meeting that neither the Congress nor the BJP wanted the Assembly to be dissolved and election to take place. “The entire country is watching you. Your respect has increased manifold because it is not something ordinary,” he said.

Mr. Gehlot claimed that some MLAs of the Pilot camp whose phones were snatched away, had been calling the Congress leaders and wanted to return. “We are fighting to save democracy. Our government is stable and we will serve the people for our full five-year term,” he said, adding that the Congress had the support of independent legislators and smaller parties as well.

The Chief Minister said while the State government was fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, a leader who was the Pradesh Congress chief and a few other MLAs in collusion with the BJP had “hatched a conspiracy” to topple it. “This is intolerable and condemnable. Those betraying the party will not be able to show their faces in public.”

Mr. Gehlot later presided over a Cabinet meeting at his official residence here, in which a decision was taken to make an ex gratia payment of ₹1,000 each to 35 lakh needy families affected by the COVID-19 lockdown.

In their writ petition, Mr. Pilot and other MLAs have accused the Speaker of acting under the influence of Mr. Gehlot and said he had issued the impugned notices with “mala fide intentions”. The actions of an elected representative who merely seeks to voice his disagreement with certain policies or decisions cannot be said to amount to him acting against the interest of the party, it said.

The plea contended that the notices were an abuse of powers under the Tenth Schedule to “stifle the freedom of speech” of the petitioners. It alleged that the complaint of Congress was based on assumptions and surmises and had no factual ground to support the alleged apprehension voiced in it.

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Printable version | Sep 27, 2020 12:50:08 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/rajasthan-hc-asks-speaker-not-to-take-any-decision-on-defection-notices-till-july-24/article32148093.ece

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