Pilot, rebels move HC to add Centre as party

Sacked deputy chief minister of Rajasthan Sachin Pilot and 18 other MLAs, who challenged notices for disqualification issued by the assembly speaker in the Rajasthan high court, moved an application before the high court on Thursday asking the court to include the Union government as a party to the case as validity of the 10th Schedule of the Constitution has been challenged.

In the application through counsels S Hariharan and Divyesh Maheshwari, the legislators prayed that the Union of India through the secretary of Ministry of Law and Justice (Department of Legal Affairs) be made a party respondent to the present writ petition in the interest of justice and law.

The application said that the union government should be included as a party because the validity of constitutional provisions (10th schedule) are under challenge. The 10th Schedule of the Constitution of India contains provisions relating to disqualification of lawmakers for defection.

An identical application was also filed in the Supreme Court where the Rajasthan assembly speaker filed a special leave petition (SLP).

The application was filed on the day the Supreme Court took up a plea by assembly speaker CP Joshi asking the top court to stay Rajasthan high court order of July 21 which directed speaker to defer action on the speaker’s notice till July 24. The Supreme Court eventually declined Joshi’s prayer to stay the proceedings before the high court and deferred the matter for further hearing on July 27.

On July 15, the dissident Congress MLAs led by Pilot challenged their disqualification notices through a writ petition which was taken up on July 17by a bench of Rajasthan High Court, comprising Chief Justice Indrajit Mahanty and Justice Prakash Gupta, and arguments were held.

The hearing continued on Monday and the arguments concluded on Tuesday. The court will give its order in the writ petition on Friday.

The notices to MLAs were served on July 17after the chief whip of the party complained to the speaker that the legislators had defied a direction to attend two Congress Legislature Party meetings on Monday and Tuesday last week.

The Pilot camp, however, argued that a party whip applies only when the assembly is in session.

In its complaint to the Legislative Assembly Speaker, the Congress had sought action against Pilot and the other dissidents under paragraph 2 (1) (a) of the 10th 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.

Legal expert Pana Chand said the application seemed to be an attempt to delay the proceedings in the case.

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