Ashok Gehlot: Sachin Pilot was ‘worthless, meaningless’

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on July 20, 2020

Ashok Gehlot and Sachin Pilot.

Political drama outside Rajasthan HC as petition against Speaker’s disqualification notice to rebel MLAs is heard

The Rajasthan High Court on Monday heard arguments for and against the maintainability of a petition against their disqualification filed by Sachin Pilot and 18 dissident Congress MLAs while the two warring factions simultaneously exchanged a no-holds-barred invective match.

Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot called the former Deputy Chief Minister, sacked Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) chief Sachin Pilot, a “worthless, meaningless character” (Nakara, Nimamma) who conspired with the BJP to bring down his Government. A Congress MLA supporting Gehlot, Giriraj Singh Malinga, alleged that Pilot offered him money to join the BJP. Pilot, on his part, said that he was “saddened but not surprised by the baseless, vexatious allegations” against him.

The Rajasthan Speaker CP Joshi has issued a showcause notice to Pilot and other rebel MLAs under para 2(1)(a) of the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution that disqualifies them if they “voluntarily give up the membership of the party they represent in the House”. They have until Tuesday to reply to the notices, when the Speaker takes up the matter. The High Court, in the meantime, is to decide on the maintainability of the petition. The petition is against the Speaker’s notice on the grounds that issuance of disqualification notice for inner-party dissent is a violation of freedom of speech of the legislator.

Arguing for the petitioners, senior advocate Harish Salve said no case under the Tenth Schedule, or anti-defection law, is made out. “Inner party dissent, however, shrill it may be, until the moment it goes to the extent of supporting another party, cannot be a ground even to start disqualification proceedings under Tenth Schedule,” said Salve.

Before him, senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi objected to the maintainability of the petition against the Speaker’s notice on the grounds that the Court cannot interfere before the Speaker takes a final decision on the disqualification proceedings. Singhvi cited the Supreme Court in Kihoto Hollohan case in which Tenth Schedule provisions had been held as reasonable restriction on free speech. “Unprincipled defection is a political sin and against Constitutional morality,” Singhvi quoted from the SC decision.

Meanwhile, the Chief Minister asserted that Pilot and his supporting rebel MLAs had been “conspiring” to bring down his Government for a long time.

“For several years, no one in Rajasthan Congress said anything adverse although we all knew that he was a worthless, meaningless character whose only mission was to create factionalism and infighting… He has created an image in the media because he has an innocent face and he speaks good English and Hindi. But we all know the reality. He has been thick with the BJP and wants to bring down the Congress Government,” accused the Chief Minister.

Published on July 20, 2020

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