Debate On Dissent Vs Defection As Court Hears Team Pilot's Challenge

Rajasthan Crisis: Team Pilot, which has been staying in two resorts near Delhi for over a week, has argued in court that such notices cannot be served by the Rajasthan Speaker when the assembly is not in session.

Sachin Pilot is at the heart of Rajasthan crisis for the Congress.

Highlights

  • Rajasthan High Court hearing rebels' challenge to disqualification notice
  • Speaker had told court that no action against Team Pilot till Tuesday
  • Sachin Pilot, other rebels served notice after skipping two key meetings
Jaipur/ New Delhi: A court hearing on a petition by Sachin Pilot and 18 other rebel Congress MLAs challenging disqualification notices in Rajasthan today saw top lawyers arguing over whether dissent is "anti-party" and whether the Speaker's action on dissenters violates freedom of speech. Top lawyer Harish Salve, representing team Pilot, said in the Rajasthan High Court, "Disqualification notice for inner party dissent is violation of freedom of speech". Earlier today, Abhishek Manu Singhvi, representing Speaker CP Joshi, argued that team Pilot cannot challenge disqualification notices in court before the Speaker takes action. The hearing will resume tomorrow.

Here are the latest developments in this big story:

  1. "The rebels don't have grounds to question the Speaker until the Speaker gives a decision. The Speaker and the assembly are not in the judicial purview of the court for now," said Abhishek Manu Singhvi, a senior lawyer and Congress leader,

  2. Sachin Pilot and other rebels were served notice for "anti-party activity" after they skipped two meetings of Congress MLAs called by Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot last week. Rajasthan Chief Justice Indrajit Mahanty observed during the arguments that the Congress cannot force MLAs to attend a party meeting.

  3. Team Pilot, which has been staying in two resorts near Delhi for over a week, has contested a constitutional rule that disqualifies MLAs if they "voluntarily" give up the membership of the party that they represent.

  4. "Unprincipled defection is a political sin and against constitutional morality," Mr Singhvi said, adding that the petitioners, in an "over-clever" way, had raised the same grounds of challenge that were rejected by the Supreme Court in a different case.

  5. Harish Salve, arguing on behalf of team Pilot, said a party member was "free to defy the party whip direction" outside the assembly and it did not constitute defection.  "Intra-party dissent, however shrill it may be, until the moment it goes to the extent of supporting another party, cannot be a ground to even start disqualification proceedings," Mr Salve said.

  6. If Team Pilot is disqualified, it will bring down the majority mark in the assembly and help the Gehlot government. The Chief Minister has the support of 102 MLAs, just one more than the majority mark in the 200-member assembly. Team Pilot has 19 members, and along with the BJP's 72, can give the government a close fight.

  7. Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot met the Governor on Saturday, shortly after two MLAs of the regional party Bhartiya Tribal Party came out in his support, bolstering his numbers in the close race. The meeting spurred talk of an assembly session and a possible vote this week.

  8. Alongside the court case, the Rajasthan police continues its investigations into alleged deal-making by the rebels to dislodge the Congress government. Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot claims proof that Sachin Pilot, sacked as his deputy last week, had a role in a BJP-driven plan to bribe Congress MLAs to turn against their government.

  9. Sachin Pilot, served summons on July 10 to answer questions in the investigation ordered by the Chief Minister, openly revolted against his party and shifted base to Delhi last week.

  10. The Congress leadership, especially Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, has reached out to Mr Pilot several times, but efforts in Delhi have contrasted sharply with the Ashok Gehlot government's tough stance, which betrays the party's tightrope act. Mr Pilot has been removed as Deputy Chief Minister, Rajasthan Congress chief and has also been served notice for disqualification.