- Speaker CP Joshi called the rebels' petition a dangerous precedent
- The speaker said he had power to disqualify MLAs for defying their party
- "Don't want this to escalate to a constitutional crisis," he added
Here is your ten-point cheat sheet on this big story:
Addressing the media before filing his petition, the Speaker said he had the power to disqualify MLAs for defying their party. "It is well-defined by the Supreme Court that only the Speaker can decide on anti-defection. The Speaker had full authority to send notice. It can be judicially reviewed only later, after the Speaker's decision," said Mr Joshi, calling the rebels' petition a dangerous precedent that could lead to a breakdown of constitutional rules. "I don't want this to escalate to a constitutional crisis," he told NDTV.
Kapil Sibal will be the Speaker's lawyer in this case and team Pilot will be represented by Mukul Rohatgi. The Speaker's move to seek the Supreme Court's intervention telegraphed his worry that the High Court verdict may not go in his favour. Yesterday, after the High Court hearing, he had indicated to reporters that he would hold off on action in the spirit of "mutual respect" between the two institutions.
Action now shifts to the Supreme Court alongside speculation that Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot is keen on a test of strength in the Rajasthan assembly before his challenger Sachin Pilot gets more room to win over MLAs.
As he battles a rebel crisis that he accuses the BJP of engineering, Ashok Gehlot's aides have been questioned or raided in various cases by central agencies. This morning, his brother was raided by the Enforcement Directorate over an alleged fertilizer scam. Yesterday, the Chief Minister's special officer was questioned by the CBI on the suicide of a policeman.
The Speaker served disqualification notices to 19 rebel MLAs including Sachin Pilot for "anti-party activities" after they skipped two meetings of Congress MLAs. He was first asked to defer action by three days last week, when the High Court began hearing the case.
Team Sachin Pilot got its second three-day breather after the High Court finished hearing arguments yesterday. The rebels argued that no whip can be in place when the assembly is not in session. They also told the court they have no plans to quit the Congress; they only want change in its Rajasthan leadership, read Ashok Gehlot.
The court verdict will have a huge impact on a floor test in the Rajasthan assembly. Mr Gehlot claims he has the support of 102 MLAs, one more than the majority mark. If team Pilot's 19 MLAs are disqualified, the majority mark will drop, giving the Chief Minister a far easier win.
If the rebels, however, win the High Court case and continue to be Congress members, they can vote against the government and cause huge trouble for Mr Gehlot. Team Pilot has 19 members. With the BJP's 72, independents and smaller parties, the opposition tally is at 97.
Sachin Pilot's revolt against the Congress and his former boss Ashok Gehlot is over a week old. The 42-year-old has been in Delhi with his rebel squad since he received summons on July 10 to answer questions on alleged attempts to bribe Congress MLAs to make a switch and help bring down the government in which he was deputy Chief Minister.
The Congress has made fruitless efforts at bringing around Sachin Pilot, who has firmly refused to consider any offer less than being named Chief Minister. Ashok Gehlot has been far less open to any rapprochement than his party – he has intensified investigations into what he calls "horse-trading" of MLAs and has repeatedly attacked Mr Pilot.