Rajasthan Assembly Speaker CP Joshi on Wednesday moved the Supreme Court against the high court order restraining him till July 24 from conducting disqualification proceedings against 19 dissident Congress MLAs, including sacked deputy chief minister Sachin Pilot, saying the "judiciary was never expected" to intervene in such matters resulting in "constitutional impasse".
Seeking an interim stay on the high court's July 21 order, the plea said it was the duty of the top court to ensure that all constitutional authorities exercise their jurisdiction within the boundaries and respect their "respective 'lakshman rekha' as envisaged by the Constitution itself".
The chances of an urgent hearing on the Speaker's plea during the day diminished as the apex court's registry till 3pm could not inform lawyer Sunil Fernandes, the counsel for Joshi, about the clearance of the petition for an urgent hearing by a bench.
Later in the day, Pilot also filed a caveat in the Supreme Court to ensure that no orders are passed on Joshi's petition until the camp of dissident MLAs are heard out.
A bench headed by Chief Justice SA Bobde later told Congress leader and senior advocate Kapil Sibal, who was appearing in another matter, to raise the issue of urgent listing before the apex court's registry. Sibal had raised the issue of having a mechanism in the top court for urgent mentioning and listing of petitions like the one filed by the Speaker.
Addressing a press conference during the day, Joshi said he wanted to the apex court to avert what he called a “constitutional crisis”. “The Speaker has the right to disqualify MLAs. No one can interfere in the Speaker's decision,” he said, adding that whatever judgment the court has given, “I have respected till now. However, does this respect and acceptance mean that one authority overlaps the role of the other?”
Joshi challenged the Rajasthan High Court's July 21 order which said the verdict on the petition filed by the 19 MLAs, challenging the disqualification notices, will be pronounced on July 24 and asked him to defer the disqualification proceedings till then.
"The proceedings under the Tenth Schedule (which deals with disqualification of lawmakers) before the Speaker are proceedings of the Legislature and as such cannot interfered with as repeatedly held by this Court as envisaged under Article 212 read with para 6(2) of the Tenth Schedule," the plea said.
"The impugned order (of HC) is ex-facie is illegal, perverse, and in derogation of the powers of the Speaker under the Constitution and hence deserve to be set aside," it added.
The petition, which has been settled by senior advocates Kapil Sibal and Vivek Tankha, said that the Speaker was the designated constitutional person to deal with the disqualification plea against 19 MLAs and the high court should not have intervened.
"This court as the sentinel on the qui vive (on the alert) has a duty to ensure that the all the authorities under the Constitution exercise their jurisdiction within the boundaries and respective 'Lakshman Rekha' envisaged by the Constitution itself.
"Judiciary was never expected under the Tenth Schedule to interfere in the manner it has done in the instant case resulting in this constitutional impasse warranting the instant Special Leave Petition which is being filed with an urgent request to take up the matter at the earliest convenience of this court," the plea filed through lawyer Feranndes said.
The plea referred to various judgements of the top court and said the High Court's order was in effect a stay on the powers of the Speaker under the Tenth Schedule to adjudicate on a disqualification petition.
"Moreover, it is to be pointed out that the Speaker is the 'persona designata' under the Constitution, who has exclusive, non-transferable, and non-delegable powers and authority to adjudicate on the issues of disqualification," it said and referred to constitutional scheme under Article 212.
"The scheme of Tenth Schedule, para 6(1), and para 6(2) envisions a limited interference by the Courts in matters concerning the disqualification of Members even where final orders of disqualification are passed.
"Even after the final reasoned Order of the Speaker is passed, the Apex Court and the High Courts both have held that there are limited grounds for interfering... namely, if principles of natural justice have been violated, or if the Order is mala fide, patently perverse or alleged irregularity, none of which applies in the present case as the disqualification petition is at a preliminary stage," it said.
There was a question of law whether a court can interfere in pending disqualification proceedings before the Speaker in view of the clear bar under Article 212 and the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution, the plea said.
Pilot and 18 dissident Congress MLAs have challenged their disqualification notices in the high court. The notices to MLAs were served after the party complained to the Speaker that the legislators had allegedly defied a whip to attend two Congress Legislature Party meetings, on Monday and Tuesday last week.
The Pilot camp, however, has 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.
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.
Meanwhile, following a reprieve from the Rajasthan High Court in his slugfest with Gehlot, Pilot served a legal notice to Congress MLA Giriraj Singh Malinga for his statement that the former deputy CM had offered him money to join the BJP.
A message on Pilot's official WhatsApp group said last night that he has served Malinga a legal notice for "the false and malicious statement" he made to the press. Malinga told reporters on Monday that the talks were held at Pilot's residence and he (Malinga) alerted Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot about the conspiracy to topple the state government. "I had a talk with Sachin ji. He had offered money to join the BJP but I refused that I will not join the BJP," Malinga said. Malinga is in the Gehlot camp and staying at a hotel on Delhi highway along with other MLAs. The MLA could not be contacted for comments.
Besides Pilot, dissident MLAs Prithviraj Meena, Ved Prakash Solanki, Suresh Modi, Vishwendra Singh, Deependra Singh, Bhawarlal Sharma, Gajraj Khatana, Indraj, Gajendra Singh Shaktawat, Hema Ram Choudhary, Ram Niwas Gawriya, Amar Singh, Brijendra Singh Ola, Murari Lal Meena, Mukesh Kumar Bhakar, Rakesh Parekh, Harish Meena and Ramesh Chand Meena have been parties to the petition by the Speaker.
(With inputs from PTI)