SC sets aside Rajasthan Speaker’s plea against HC order: C.P. Joshi


[7/23, 17:49] Sekarreporter 1: SC sets aside Rajasthan Speaker’s plea against HC order:
[7/23, 17:49] Sekarreporter 1: C.P. Joshi had issued anti-defection notices to former Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot and 18 dissident Congress MLAs.
The Supreme Court on Thursday refused to Rajasthan Assembly Speaker C.P. Joshi’s plea to stop the State’s High Court from deciding the validity of the anti-defection notices he issued to former Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot and 18 dissident Congress MLAs.
[7/23, 17:49] Sekarreporter 1: The Speaker had complained that the High Court had no jurisdiction to ask him to defer the disqualification proceedings till July 24.

The apex court scheduled a hearing on Monday (July 27).

During the hearing on Thursday, a three-judge Bench led by Justice Arun Mishra said the “larger question” here is whether a legislator’s “voice of dissent” can be “shut down” with the threat of disqualification. Can expressing dissent amount to “voluntarily giving up the party membership” under Paragraph 2(1)(a) of the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution and invite anti-defection proceedings?

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“Can the voice of dissent [of MLAs] be shut down like this in a democracy? This is not a simple matter. These are people elected by the public. The larger question is about democracy and how it will survive like this… This for us is not about the disqualification of some people”, Justice Mishra addressed senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for the Speaker.

“If these MLAs have to voice their dissent, let them do it in their party meetings. The disqualification petition before me says they did not attend party meetings, they attempted to destabilise their own government, they are sitting incommunicado in a Haryana hotel and making demands for a floor test in the media…”, Mr. Sibal responded to Justice Mishra.

He said the July 14 notice issued by the Speaker was an opportunity for the MLAs to explain their conduct.

“I, as the Speaker, am giving them a chance to respond to the petition… As to why there are holed up in a hotel? If I am satisfied with their explanation, I will not disqualify them. But no judicial authority can interfere till I make my final decision in the disqualification proceedings. That is the law you declared in Kihoto Hollohan case in 1992”, Mr. Sibal submitted.

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Justice B.R. Gavai, a judge on the Bench along with Justice Krishna Murari, said the Rajasthan High Court had, on July 21, only “requested” the Speaker to defer the disqualification proceedings till July 24.

“The HC told me [Speaker] ‘you cannot decide the matter’ and ‘you extend their time to file replies to disqualification notices’. Both directions are unconstitutional. The HC cannot direct the Speaker to extend time. The HC has no jurisdiction in this issue till the Speaker made his decision on the disqualification”, Mr. Sibal, assisted by advocate Sunil Fernandes, replied.

Justice Gavai asked how the Speaker was an ‘aggrieved person’ here.

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“I am not an aggrieved person, My Lord. But the MLAs have to reply to my notice. The HC cannot direct me to hold on”, Mr. Sibal said.

Issue “very serious”
Justice Mishra, at this point, suggested an adjournment, saying the issue was “very serious” and required a “prolonged hearing”. Mr. Sibal said the court should then immediately stay the High Court proceedings till the apex court decided the issue.

Senior advocates Harish Salve and Mukul Rohatgi, for the MLAs, intervened quickly. They objected to Mr. Sibal’s plea for a stay.

Mr. Salve said the Speaker having once “taken a chance” and joined the High Court proceedings cannot now seek a stay. The Speaker did not demur when the High Court previously had twice deferred the disqualification proceedings.

“The Speaker is like a tribunal. But he is acting like an aggrieved person in the Supreme Court, peppering his submissions with political overtones. All this clearly shows his actual intention”, Mr. Rohatgi argued.

“We cannot hear any mala fide of the Speaker. It is not right… The question here is about democracy”, Justice Mishra told Mr. Rohatgi.

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