New Delhi: Congress rebel Sachin Pilot has scored a good day in court in his fight against former boss and Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot. The Supreme Court today refused to stop the Rajasthan High Court from announcing its decision tomorrow on a petition by Sachin Pilot and 18 other rebel MLAs challenging disqualification notices served to them for defying the Congress party. The Rajasthan Speaker, who served the notices last week, had argued that the rebels cannot petition the High Court at this stage. The Rajasthan High Court’s ruling will, however, be subject to the final order of the Supreme Court, which will take up the case on Monday. “It is the matter of just one day. Why can’t you wait,” the top court asked the Speaker during arguments on blocking tomorrow’s verdict. The judges also questioned why the Speaker, a neutral person, should approach the court at all.
Here’s your 10-point cheatsheet to this big story:
- “Assume a leader has lost the faith of persons. While remaining in party they cannot be disqualified. Then this will become a tool and no one can raise their voice. The voice of dissent in a democracy cannot be suppressed like this,” said Justice AK Mishra, one of the three judges hearing the case, without referring to Rajasthan.
- Justice Mishra was responding to the arguments of Kapil Sibal defending the Speaker’s right to serve disqualification notices and ask the rebels why they skipped party meetings. “The High Court cannot give any protective order at this stage to the other camp. No court can intervene when the Speaker is deciding the case,” Mr Sibal said.
- Speaker CP Joshi had served notices to 19 rebel MLAs, including Sachin Pilot, after they skipped two meetings of Congress MLAs called by Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot last week. The rebels argued in court that they do not intend to quit the party; they only want a change in the leadership. But Mr Sibal said their act of not joining the meetings amounted to giving up their membership.
- The Speaker’s sudden move to seek the Supreme Court’s intervention reflects the Congress’s worry that a legal victory for the rebels may endanger its government in Rajasthan.
- Ashok Gehlot’s government has a narrow lead in the 200-member assembly – just one MLA over the majority mark of 101. If the Rajasthan High Court decides the Speaker can continue the process of disqualifying team Pilot’s 19 MLAs, Mr Gehlot can win more easily as the majority mark will come down.
- If the rebel MLAs win their case and get protection from disqualification, however, they can vote against the Congress government and make it tough for Mr Gehlot to retain power in Rajasthan.
- It emerged yesterday that the Chief Minister had written a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi alleging attempts to dislodge his government by the BJP and named Union Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat along with “over-ambitious” members of his own party.
- “At a time when our priority should be to save lives and livelihoods of the masses, the centre has become the main conspirator in toppling a state government,” Mr Gehlot wrote to PM Modi. “I don’t know how much you know about this or whether you are being misled. History will also not forgive those who are complicit in these plots,” he said.
- The Chief Minister has accused Sachin Pilot, his deputy until he sacked him last week, of conspiring with the BJP to bring down the Congress government in Rajasthan in a plan similar to Madhya Pradesh, where the Kamal Nath government crashed in March following Jyotiraditya Scindia’s switch from the Congress to the BJP.
- Sachin Pilot yesterday sent legal notice to a Congress MLA who accused him of trying to bribe him into defecting. The notice to MLA Giriraj Singh Malinga said he had tried to tarnish Mr Pilot’s image and so he should furnish Re 1 along with a written apology.