The Rajasthan political crisis is set to reach the Supreme Court with assembly speaker CP Joshi headed to the top court against the high court that asked him not to decide the disqualification notices he had issued to the group of 19 legislators led by Sachin Pilot.
The high court had Tuesday said it would deliver its order on July 24 on a petition filed by Pilot and 18 other MLAs, challenging the disqualification notices sent to them. It asked the Speaker to defer the disqualification proceedings till then.
Pilot and other rebel MLAs have challenged their disqualification notices in the high court through a writ petition. The petition was taken up by a bench of Chief Justice Indrajit Mahanty and Justice Prakash Gupta on Friday and arguments were held. The hearing continued on Monday but it remained inconclusive and resumed on Tuesday. The Pilot camp, however, argued that a party whip applies only when the assembly is in session.
The high court had on Friday given a four-day reprieve to Sachin Pilot and other Congress dissidents from any action by Rajasthan Speaker on the disqualification notices served on them by extending the hearing into their petition.
CP Joshi announced his decision to move the Supreme Court at a press conference where he warned that they were “heading for a constitutional crisis”. Joshi stressed that there were more than one Supreme Court verdicts that ruled the judiciary could not interfere before the assembly speaker delivered its ruling’. He maintained that Speaker has “exclusive, non-transferable, and non-delegable powers and authority to adjudicate on the issues of disqualification”.
“I don’t want a confrontation. I respect the judges… but the roles are well defined,” Joshi told reporters.
The petition settled by senior advocates Kapil Sibal and Vivek Tankha contended that the High Court’s July 21 order was a direct affront on the power of Legislature. The Speaker’s counsel had twice before agreed to the high court’s “request” to extend the deadline for receiving replies from the MLAs to the show-cause notices.
Congress Spokesperson and Senior Advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi argued that a disqualification procedure is beyond the purview of the court. He said the courts have no jurisdiction over the disqualification of any member and that judicial review is absolutely barred in this case.
He went on to say that the Supreme Court, in the 1992 Kihoto Hollohan case, had rejected the arguments raised by senior Advocate Harish Salve (representing Pilot and others) against the Tenth Schedule. The Tenth Schedule was upheld as a reasonable restriction on free speech, Singhvi argued.