New Delhi: In a major relief for former Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot and his camp of 18 rebel MLAs, the Supreme Court on Thursday announced a crucial verdict saying that the State Assembly Speaker CP Joshi can not decide on the disqualification of the 19 rebel MLAs till the top court announces its verdict.

A three-judge bench of Justice Arun Mishra, Justice BR Gavai and Justice Krishna Murari was hearing an SLP filed by the State Assembly Speaker CP Joshi against the interim order of the Rajasthan High Court in the matter.

What Is Disqualification Notice Row About?

Rajasthan Assembly Speaker CP Joshi had earlier sent notices to Pilot and 18 MLAs under the anti-defection law after the chief whip’s application for their disqualification.

Soon Pilot and the MLAs from his camp approached the High Court over disqualification notice seeking the quashing and setting aside of the show cause notice issued to them on July 14 by the Speaker. According to the notice, if these MLAs fail to respond to the notice then the Speaker can proceed ex parte and disqualify them from the Assembly.

While hearing the matter, Rajasthan High Court asked the legislative assembly speaker not to act on disqualification notices issued by him to the 19 MLAs till July 24. The high court fixed July 24 as date for passing order.

On this, Joshi filed a petition in Supreme Court stating that speaker has the complete authority to send a show-cause notice.

Argument’s Presented Before Supreme Court Over Disqualification Notice

Appearing for Assembly Speaker CP Joshi, senior lawyer Kapil Sibal submitted that the court cannot direct the Speaker to extend the time for the MLAs to file their replies on the anti-defection notices.

“It is not in the jurisdiction of the court. The Rajasthan High Court was wrong in issuing a direction to the Speaker. This is against settled law on this point. The High Court had no jurisdiction until Speaker decided on the plea of Pilot and other MLAs’ anti-defection proceedings,” Sibal submitted.

In the contrary, Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for Sachin Pilot, said that if the Speaker can himself agree to defer twice, why can’t he wait for another 24 hours? Senior advocate Harish Salve, who was also appearing for Pilot and the other MLAs, also argued that the Speaker had deferred the proceedings before him on his own twice in the past.

“Issues of jurisdiction and maintainability have been argued before the High Court. Having appeared and argued there, why should Speaker now ask High Court not to decide?” Salve said.

Supreme Court Pushes Ball To The Court Of ‘Democracy’

In its decision on today’s hearing, the apex court said that the Rajasthan High Court can pass an order on the plea by rebel leader Sachin Pilot against the disqualification notice sent by the speaker. However, the verdict will remain subject to the outcome of the Supreme Court’s hearing, which is expected to come on Monday

While announcing the decision after hearing arguments from both the sides, the apex court observed that these are important questions relating to democracy.

“How will democracy function? These are very serious issues. It’s not just about the disqualification of some persons. We want to hear it,” the bench said.

Justice Mishra asked Sibal if a person elected by the people cannot express his dissent. “Voice of dissent cannot be suppressed. In a democracy can somebody be shut down like this?” Justice Mishra said.

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