New Delhi, July 27: The Supreme Court on Monday found “no problem” in allowing Rajasthan Assembly Speaker C.P. Joshi to withdraw his petition challenging the State High Court’s “interference” in the disqualification proceedings against former Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot and 18 other breakaway Congress legislators.
Appearing before a Bench led by Justice Arun Mishra, senior advocates Kapil Sibal and Sunil Fernandes said they had been instructed by their client, the Rajasthan Speaker’s office, to withdraw the case from the Supreme Court, The Hindu reported.
Mr. Sibal said the case in the Supreme Court had become “infructuous” with the Rajasthan High Court, on July 24, passing a detailed order, effectively deferring disqualification action against Mr. Pilot and other dissident Congress MLAs for an indefinite period. Mr. Sibal said the Supreme Court had not stayed the High Court proceedings, leading to the latter court’s order on July 24.
“We want to withdraw,” Mr. Sibal said.
“We have no problem,” Justice Mishra, followed with a short order allowing the Speaker to bow out.
Mr. Sibal withdrew the petition with liberty to file a fresh appeal and “keeping all the grounds open”.
On July 23, the Supreme Court declined Mr. Joshi’s plea to stop the High Court from deciding the validity of the anti-defection notices he had issued to Mr. Pilot and 18 dissident Congress MLAs.
The Supreme Court had, however, on July 23 said the High Court order the next day would be subject to the final decision of the Supreme Court on the Speaker’s petition. The Speaker had come to the Supreme Court against a July 21 order of the High Court to defer the disqualification proceedings till July 24.
The Justice Mishra Bench had on July 23 scheduled the hearing on Monday to look into the “larger question” as to whether a legislator’s “voice of dissent” can be “shut down” with the threat of disqualification. Can expressing dissent amount to “voluntarily giving up the party membership” under Paragraph 2(1)(a) of the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution and invite anti-defection proceedings?
“Can the voice of dissent (of MLAs) be shut down like this in a democracy? This is not a simple matter. These are people elected by the public. The larger question is about democracy and how it will survive like this… This, for us, is not about the disqualification of some people,” Justice Mishra had addressed Mr. Sibal on July 23.
“If these MLAs have to voice their dissent, let them do it in their party meetings. The disqualification petition before me says they did not attend party meetings, they attempted to destabilise their own government, they are sitting incommunicado in a Haryana hotel and making demands for a floor test in the media…” Mr. Sibal had responded to Justice Mishra.
He had said the July 14 notice issued by the Speaker was an opportunity for the MLAs to explain their conduct.