18 rebel lesgislators join in, say they have not defied the party
Jaipur: In a dramatic but, perhaps, inevitable escalation of the crisis the Congress government is facing in Rajasthan, Sachin Pilot and 18 other rebel leaders challenged in the Rajasthan high court the party’s move to disqualify them as MLAs.
Reports quoting sources said that Mr Pilot, who is Petitioner No. 7 against the Congress, seems to have reached a point of no return vis-a-vis his former party by going to court just a day after Priyanka Gandhi Vadra spoke with him on the phone.
A division bench of the Rajasthan high court, which was to hear their petition at 7.30 pm Thursday evening, scheduled it for 1 pm on Friday.
The matter came up first before the court of Justice Satish Chandra Sharma at about 3 pm on Thursday, but the dissidents’ advocate Harish Salve sought time to file a fresh petition. At about 5 pm, an amended petition was submitted. The court referred it to a two-judge division bench.
The Rajasthan Speaker, C.P. Joshi, had issued notices to 19 Congress dissidents on Tuesday after the Congress asked that they be disqualified from the state Assembly as they had defied a party whip to attend two Congress Legislature Party meetings. They were asked to reply by Friday.
The Pilot camp argues that a party whip applies only when the Assembly is in session.
Congress chief whip Mahesh Joshi, who had written to the Speaker seeking the MLAs’ disqualification, also approached the court, asking to be heard before it passes any order.
In its complaint to the Speaker, the Congress sought action against Mr Pilot and the other dissidents under paragraph 2 (1) (a) of the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution. The provision disqualifies MLAs if they voluntarily give up the membership of the party which they represent in the House.
The Congress said in the letter to the Speaker that the Supreme Court has unequivocally held in the past that the provision comes into effect when the conduct of an MLA leads to this inference. The Congress has fielded one of its sharpest legal experts, Abhishek Manu Singhvi.
Mr Pilot has been upset since the Congress picked Ashok Gehlot for the chief minister's post after the 2018 Assembly polls. But it was police summons to Mr Pilot for an investigation into alleged “horse trading” ahead of Rajya Sabha elections that triggered his rebellion over the weekend.
Sources close to him said he had taken it as a “humiliation".