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New Delhi, July 23, 2020
The Supreme Court on Thursday declined to accede to the Rajasthan Assembly Speaker's request to stay the Rajasthan High Court proceedings on Sachin Pilot and other MLAs' petition against the disqualification notice issued to them.
The apex court also allowed the High Court to pass an order on the matter on Friday, but said that it will be subject to the outcome of the proceedings in the top court.
A bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra and comprising Justices B. R. Gavai and Krishna Murari took up the matter through video conferencing.
Senior advocate Harish Salve, representing Pilot, contended before the bench that there is no need to stay the High Court proceedings, as the Speaker has taken a chance in the High Court and he cannot ask for a stay now.
The bench noted that this matter has to be heard at length, and this will require detailed hearing. "Your questions require lengthy hearing," the bench told senior advocate Kapil Sibal, representing Rajasthan Assembly Speaker C. P. Joshi.
Sibal contended that the apex court should suspend the High Court order.
The bench replied, "But that is what we need to examine."
Sibal replied then the apex court should transfer the High Court petition here. The bench said: "Not now".
Sibal asked the top court for an order to stay any further proceedings before the High Court.
Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, also representing Pilot, questioned the political overtones of the Speaker. "If Speaker can himself agree to defer twice, why can't he wait for another 24 hours?" Rohatgi argued.
The apex court observed that these are important questions relating to democracy.
"How will the democracy function? These are very serious issues. We want to hear it," said the bench.
Salve also pointed out that the Rajasthan Speaker had deferred the proceedings on his own twice in the past, and the issues of jurisdiction and maintainability have been argued before the High Court.
The bench replied, can we say order of the High Court will be subject to the outcome here? Salve agreed. The apex court will continue to hear the matter on Monday.
As the counsels of the rebel Congress MLAs in Rajasthan and the Assembly Speaker slugged it out in the court, two words became bones of contention during the course of the hearing.
The bench told Sibal that the High Court had only requested the Speaker to wait till July 24.
Sibal replied, "Suspend the word ‘direction' from the order, as the court can't do this."
Justice Mishra said so the problem is only with the two words, as the High Court order everywhere says ‘request'." The apex court noted that the matter may require lengthy hearing. Sibal contended that the apex court could have prolonged hearing but the interim direction to the Speaker should be removed. "My lords have never passed an interim order like this," submitted Sibal.
Sibal was referring to the Rajasthan High Court order which said "In view of above directions, we therefore, further request the Speaker, who has been pleased to extend the period for filing reply by the writ petitioners till 5.30 p.m. as of today i.e. 21.07.2020, to extend the said period till the delivery of orders by this Court on 24/07/2020 and we direct accordingly. The matter shall be listed on 24.07.2020. The parties are directed to act accordingly."
The Speaker, in his plea, has contended that this order is in the teeth of the dictum of the Constitution bench of the apex court in Kihoto Hollohan vs Zachillhu, and the mandate of the mandate of Para 6(2) of the Tenth Schedule read with Article 212 of the Constitution. "In Kihoto, a Constitution bench of this court expressly held that courts cannot interdict the Speaker from proceeding ahead at the quia timet stage," argued the plea.
The bench queried Sibal on the grounds on which disqualification of the MLAs was sought.
Sibal replied that the MLAs didn't attend the party meet, instead they were indulging in activities against the interest of their own party. Sibal also cited the apex court verdict in the Manipur crisis. "Justice Nariman's judgment in Manipur is in my favour. It asked the Speaker to decide the matter, not defer the decision," he argued.
The bench queried Sibal that could the Speaker be an aggrieved person. He replied that the Speaker has moved the top court because he has been asked not to decide the matter, which is against the Constitution bench.