Jaipur: A division bench of the Rajasthan High Court began hearing Friday a petition filed by Sachin Pilot and 18 other dissident Congress MLAs. They have challenged the disqualification notices issued by the assembly Speaker against them. The notices had asked the Congress MLAs to respond by Friday to the Congress move to disqualify them from the Rajasthan assembly. Speaker CP Joshi is expected to take up the matter at 5.00pm, instead of 1 pm as mentioned in the notices.
The dissidents’ petition first came up before Justice Satish Chandra Sharma Thursday, but their advocate Harish Salve sought time to file a fresh petition. Later, in the evening, the petition was referred to a division bench. The petition was taken up Friday by a bench of Chief Justice Indrajit Mahanty and Justice Prakash Gupta.
The bench accepted a plea by Congress chief whip Mahesh Joshi to include him as a respondent in the case.
The notices were served after the party complained to the Speaker that the MLAs had defied a whip to attend two Congress Legislature Party meetings, on Monday and Tuesday.
The Pilot camp, however, argues that a party whip applies only when the assembly is in session.
In its complaint to the Speaker, the Congress had sought action against 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.
Pilot was sacked as deputy chief minister and the president of the state unit of the party after he rebelled against Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot.