Political Lots

By Nagaland Post | Publish Date: 7/17/2020 12:59:01 PM IST

 After fleeing to a safe haven in BJP-ruled Haryana and provided with state police protection there, Congress rebel Sachin Pilot and 18 other rebel MLAs have moved the Rajasthan High Court Friday to dismiss the disqualification notices served on him and his loyalists by the Speaker of the Rajasthan legislative assembly. Pilot and his team were served a notice of disqualification from the membership of the assembly and asked to respond by Friday. Pilot was sacked from both the positions after he and his followers refused to attend two legislative party meetings held over two days to discuss alleged horse-trading charges and the differences between the two rival factions. The delay in the hearing Friday to 1 p.m. was caused due to decision by Pilot’s legal team to amend the petition to challenge the Rajasthan Assembly Member (Disqualification on the grounds of changing party) Rules, 1989, instead of the notices of disqualification. In the petition’s earlier form, Sachin Pilot had argued that missing two meetings of Congress Legislative Party did not amount to defection. In the amended version, the petition argues that the “expression of dissatisfaction or even disillusionment against the party leadership” cannot be treated as conduct that could be covered under the anti-defection law. Both Gehlot and Pilot have one thing in common- the last three letters of their surnames- ‘LOT’. The legal arguments by Pilot’s legal team to seek the court’s intervention is based on the premise that there are no grounds for disqualification. They have argued that not attending the party legislature meetings did not constitute sufficient grounds for disqualification. Pilot’s legal team could also argue that since the rebels had not made any move nor intended to quit the Congress to join the BJP, the disqualification proceedings would tantamount to groundless presumption. On the other hand the Congress chief minister Ashok Gehlot may point to voice tape in which some of the rebels were in touch with BJP leaders about their intention to join the BJP. There are also allegations of mention of huge sum of money.The question of Speaker’s powers to disqualify members and the extent to which courts can interfere with it have been a legal minefield, with contrasting judgements delivered in High Courts and Supreme Court. In a landmark judgement in the Kilhoto Hollohon vs Zachillhu and others case in 1992, the Supreme Court held that the Constitution prohibits judicial intervention to protect the legislator from the Speaker’s action before the petition is decided. This means that the court cannot issue an interim order protecting the MLA or the MP from disqualification proceedings. What the law does not prohibit is the court enforcing disqualification proceedings, which are quasi-judicial in character, when they are unnecessarily delayed. The arguments are legalistic and these will seek to drag the issue on while the Speaker may be compelled to postpone any disqualification proceedings. The fact is that Pilot and his loyalists have revolted against their party chief minister and his government. Further, by not agreeing to iron out their differences at appropriate party forum such as the party legislature, the rebels have only confirmed that they have gone against their party directives. If these simple acts can be condoned then perhaps it will only be fitting if the Anti-Defection Law is either thrown to the dustbin or totally rewritten.

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