Rajasthan HC asks speaker to hold off on action against Sachin Pilot, 18 Cong MLAs; to resume hearing on Monday

Two judges of the Rajasthan High Court on Friday asked assembly speaker CP Joshi to hold off on action against Sachin Pilot and the 18 lawmakers who were issued disqualification notice this week. The court, which was hearing Pilot’s challenge to the disqualification notice, will resume hearing the case on Monday.

The interim order of the high court came minutes before the deadline set by speaker CP Joshi’s office for responding to the notice was to expire.

Sachin Pilot’s group had on Thursday challenged the disqualification notice under the anti-defection law, contending that they hadn’t done or said anything that would indicate that they were parting ways from the Congress.

In their writ petition, the legislators argued that they had neither given up their membership of the House nor did their failure to attend the two Congress legislature party meetings make them liable for disqualification on the grounds of defection.

The Pilot camp termed the notices under the Tenth Schedule a way to stifle their “freedom of speech” and to impose the “majoritarian views of the party on them”.

Forty two-year-old Pilot, credited with leading the Congress’ successful 2018 assembly election campaign, has categorically ruled out joining the BJP, asserting that attempts to link him to the opposition party were a ploy to tar his image.

If the rebel MLAs are disqualified, the majority mark in the 200-member assembly will come down, making it easier for chief minister Ashok Gehlot to win a floor test.

In another development, the Special Operations Group (SOG) of the Rajasthan Police has registered two first information reports (FIRs) against two incriminating audiotapes in which a Congress lawmaker is purportedly talking to a middleman and a person named Gajendra Singh about toppling the Ashok Gehlot-led government.

The SOG is also investigating another case related to sedition against two persons, who have been arrested, on the basis of intercepts of two mobile phones that pertain to an alleged bid to oust the Gehlot government.

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