The Rajasthan High Court on Tuesday reserved verdict on the petition. The petition challenged the notices issued by the Speaker to start disqualification proceedings.
Facts of the Case
It was on July 14 that the Speaker, Dr C P Joshi, served the notices to the 19 dissident MLAs, including Pilot, amid their rebellion. Furthermore, till 1 PM, July 17 they have to submit the replies.
The basis of the notices was the complaint filed by Mahesh Joshi, the Congress Party Whip. Furthermore, Mahesh alleged that rebel MLAs had to be disqualified under the 10th Schedule due to their anti-party statements.
Meanwhile, the 19 MLAs approached the High Court, challenging the Speaker’s action. Hence, the Court started hearing the matter on Friday. Similarly, given the pendency of the proceedings, the Speaker extended the time for a reply.
Arguments by the Parties
Arguments of the Petitioners
Senior Advocates Harish Salve and Mukul Rohatgi appeared for the petitioners. It was argued that the petitioners had not defected or given up the membership of Congress party. They are expressing dissent against the functioning of the Chief Minister, by staying within the party and stating that intra-party dissent cannot be regarded as voluntary giving up of party membership.
Speakers Jurisdiction to issue notice was contended. As well as invoking Paragraph 2(1)(a) of the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution. That this was their argument that the Speaker was acting with mala side intentions. The Speaker granted only 3 days for a reply. However, the legislative rules stipulate 7 days for responding to the notice.
The petitioners also argued that whip applied only to proceedings within the House. Thus, defiance of party whip’s directions cannot attract disqualification proceedings.
The petitioners asserted that the High Court has powers under Article 226 to interfere with the Speaker’s action. Courts can quash a show-cause notice if it is issued without jurisdiction; other reasons include:
- Being over the jurisdiction;
- There is a colourable exercise of power;
- There is mala-fide intention when issuing the notice;
- Or, that it is in violation of the principles of natural justice.
Arguments of the Respondent
Senior Advocate Dr Abhishek Manu Singhvi appeared for the Speaker. Singhvi submitted that Courts have restrictions in interfering with proceedings within the House.
Article 212 of the Constitution prescribes that the legality of house proceedings cannot be called into question. The proceedings for disqualification are deemed to be as per Para 6(2) of 10th Schedule. They relied on the SC decision in Kihoto Hollohan vs Zachillhu. It held that the Courts could not interfere at a stage anterior to the Speaker’s decision. Therefore, a Speaker of the Legislative Assembly is not like any tribunal over which the HC exercises supervisory jurisdiction.
Senior Advocate Devadatt Kamat, appeared for the Congress Whip Mahesh Joshi. Furthermore, he pointed out the petitioner’s exit from the party was voluntary.
During the hearing, Chief Justice Mahanty observed that whip could only apply to house proceedings, and not to party meetings. The Chief Justice remarked:
“You say these members have voluntarily given up their membership of the party. Now you have issued suspension against them. The assumption behind suspension is that they are members. Either they are members of your party, or not members. It cannot be both ways”
A bench comprising Chief Justice Indrajit Mahanty and Justice Prakash Gupta will deliver the verdict on July 24.
Furthermore, the High Court has also requested the Speaker to defer the decision on disqualification proceedings. Thus, the time for filing a reply was extended till a verdict came.
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