Rajasthan crisis: Breather for Sachin Pilot in Supreme Court
Sachin Pilot, the sacked Deputy Chief Minister of Rajasthan, and 18 other dissident MLAs got a breather on Thursday as the Supreme Court refused to stay Rajasthan High Court's Tuesday verdict, wherein Speaker CP Joshi was directed to not decide on their disqualifications until Friday. Joshi had gone to the apex court against the "illegal and perverse" order of the lower court.
Last week, Joshi sent disqualification notices to 19 MLAs after they skipped two CLP meetings, convened by CM Ashok Gehlot. The desert state dived into political crisis after Pilot, along with his loyalists, camped in Haryana, claiming Gehlot lost the majority in the 200-member Assembly. Eyeing the CM post since 2018, Pilot went rogue after being summoned for interrogation. Later, Congress sacked him.
Served with notices, Pilot's camp went to Rajasthan HC, arguing that dissent is no ground for disqualification. However, much to Joshi's surprise, he was asked to hold his decision twice — on Friday last week and on Tuesday. HC's verdict will be out at 10:30 am tomorrow. Left powerless, Joshi approached SC against this "constitutional crisis." He also reminded that roles are "clearly defined."
During today's hearing, Joshi's representative, senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal, said courts can't interfere at this stage. "No court can intervene when the Speaker is deciding the case," Sibal said. When asked why was the disqualification process initiated, Sibal said the MLAs didn't attend meetings. "They are in a Haryana hotel, incommunicado and sought floor test against their own party," he argued.
A bench of Justices Arun Mishra, BR Gavai, and Krishna Murari said the matter was serious and involved the "question of democracy." Further, the bench asked Joshi why he couldn't wait for one more day while noting that the move of a neutral entity (a Speaker) to approach the court was surprising. Notably, the disqualification of the MLAs means Gehlot's chair is safe.
At one point during the hearing, Justice Mishra asked, "Can a person elected by people not express his dissent? Voice of dissent cannot be suppressed. In a democracy, can somebody be shut down like this?" The SC will hear the case again on July 27.
During today's hearing when Sibal's screen seemed patchy, Justice Mishra was compelled to ask why he looks pained. Replying to this, Sibal said, "I'm not pained at all. There's so much going on around, I have stopped feeling pained. I'm happy that Mr. Salve is smiling." To recall, Harish Salve, a top lawyer of the Centre, and Mukul Rohatgi are Pilot's representatives.