New Delhi | Jagran News Desk: Observing that "voice of dissent in a democracy cannot be shut down", the Supreme Court on Thursday said that the Rajasthan High Court can deliver on Friday its verdict on the petition filed by Sachin Pilot and 18 rebel Congress MLAs against the disqualification notice issued to them by the Speaker. 

Acting on a petition filed by Speaker CP Joshi seeking directions to the Rajasthan High Court to not pass any verdict on the rebel MLAs' plea, the top court said that while the high court can deliver its verdict on Friday, it will not be implemented till the Supreme Court passes its judgment on the Speaker's plea which will heard on as day-to-day basis from Monday. 

A bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra said that the Speaker cannot decide on the disqualification notice issued to the rebel lawmakers till it passes verdict on the issue. 

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.

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.

Earlier, the top court questioned the Speaker on the reasons for initiating disqualification proceedings after advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for Joshi, said that the these MLAs did not attend party meetings and conspired to destabilise their own government.

A bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra said: “This is not a simple matter and these MLAs are elected representatives”.

“Voice of dissent in democracy cannot be shut down”, the bench observed. “We are trying to find out whether this process (disqualification) was permissible or not."

Responding to a query of the bench, Sibal said, “These MLAs had gone to Haryana, stayed at a hotel and gave TV bites that they want floor test."

He said the issue as to whether the disqualification process is permissible or not cannot be taken note of by the court at this stage. “Our grievance is purely constitutional and there cannot be any order till decision is taken by the speaker."

Sibal said that at the most the Speaker can be asked to decide disqualification within a time frame but the process can't be interfered with and no writ can lie to challenge proceedings before Speaker prior to the decision on disqualification or suspension of MLAs.

During the hearing, the bench asked Sibal whether a disqualification notice can be issued to MLAs for not attending the meetings and can it be taken as stand against the party.

The bench's observation came when Sibal said that there was a notice issued by the Chief Whip of the party to all MLAs to attend the meetings.

At the outset, Joshi told the top court that the state high court has no jurisdiction to restrain him from conducting disqualification proceedings till July 24 against 19 dissident Congress MLAs, including sacked deputy chief minister Sachin Pilot.

Sibal referred to a famous top court verdict rendered in the 1992 Kihoto Hollohan case, in which it was held that courts can't intervene in disqualification proceedings undertaken by the Speaker under Tenth Schedule to the Constitution.

He said courts could only intervene when the Speaker takes a decision to suspend or disqualify a member of the House.

Sibal's response came when the bench asked him whether courts could not intervene at all if the Speaker suspended or disqualified a lawmaker.

Joshi has 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.

Posted By: Abhinav Gupta