JAIPUR: A division bench of the Rajasthan High Court will hear Thursday evening a petition filed by Sachin Pilot and 18 other dissident leaders, challenging notices from the Speaker over a Congress move to disqualify them from the state assembly.
A two-judge bench is expected to hear the amended petition on July 17. The petition first came up to Justice Satish Chandra Sharma at 3 pm on Thursday, but advocate Harish Salve sought time to file a fresh petition.
The matter was heard again at about 5 pm when the judge referred it to a division bench.
Earlier, Congress chief whip Mahesh Joshi, who had written to the Speaker seeking the MLAs' disqualification, also approached the court, asking to be heard before it passes any order.
The 19 MLAs were sent notices Tuesday by the Speaker after the Congress complained that they had defied a party whip to attend two Congress Legislature Party meetings.
The Pilot camp, however, argues that a party whip applies only when the assembly is in session.
In its complaint to the Speaker C P Joshi, the Congress sought action against Pilot and the other dissidents under paragraph 2 (1) (a) of the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution.
The provision disqualifies MLAs if they voluntarily give up the membership of the party which they represent in the House.
The Congress said in the letter to Speaker C P Joshi that the Supreme Court has unequivocally held in the past that the provision comes into effect when the conduct of an MLA leads to this inference.
In court, advocate Harish Salve argued that the MLAs wanted to challenge the constitutional validity of the notices and needed some time to file it afresh.
Among those sent notices are Vishvendra Singh and Ramesh Meena, who were sacked along with Pilot from the state cabinet after their rebellion against Ashok Gehlot.
Others include Deepender Singh Shekhawat, Bhanwar Lal Sharma and Harish Chandra Meena, who had also given statements to the media challenging the Gehlot government.
Sachin Pilot has been upset since the Congress picked Ashok Gehlot for the chief minister's post after the 2018 assembly polls.
His supporters said he deserved credit for the party winning the election after a campaigned helmed by him as the state unit chief.
The notices were issued by the Assembly secretariat on Tuesday, and the MLAs had time till Friday to reply to them.
The Speaker was to take a decision on their disqualification after getting their replies.
Their disqualification would reduce the current strength of the state assembly to 181, slashing the half-way mark to 91 and seemingly making it easier for Gehlot to retain majority support.
In the 200-member assembly, the Congress has 107 MLAs and the BJP 72.
In the past, the ruling party has claimed the support of 13 independents, two MLAs each from the CPM and the Bhartiya Tribal Party (BTP), and one from the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD).