The Rajasthan High Court hearing – in which Sachin Pilot and 18 other rebel Congress MLAs are challenging their disqualification from the state Assembly – reached the Supreme Court Monday afternoon, although not in the way one might expect.
Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who is representing Speaker CP Joshi in this case and telecom major Bharti Airtel in the Supreme Court in the matter of the centre’s AGR (adjusted gross revenue) claims, left his microphone open and fragments of the high court hearing echoed in the top court.
Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, who is representing Vodafone, another telecom major in the case, was quick to warn his colleague.
“Dr Singhvi, the Rajasthan High Court hearing can be heard. Please mute your mic,” Mr Rohatgi said.
Both hearings, as all judicial matters in courts across the country are, are being heard virtually because of the coronavirus lockdown that has restricted movement of people. As a result, all offices, including non-essential government services, have been encouraged to work from home (or remotely) wherever possible.
In the high court today, Mr Singhvi argued that Mr Pilot and the rebel MLAs could not yet approach the court over their disqualification before the Speaker had ruled on the matter. Mr Singhvi also challenged the rebels’ argument that skipping two party meetings did not amount to quitting the Congress.
Team Pilot, which has 19 members, argued that disqualification notices could not be served by the Rajasthan Speaker since the assembly was not in session. They also contested a constitutional rule disqualifying MLAs if they “voluntarily” give up the membership of the party.
Sachin Pilot and the other rebels were served notices for “anti-party activity” after they skipped two meetings of Congress MLAs called by Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot last week.
The Congress has told the court that no action will be taken against the rebels until Tuesday, when they are expected to reply to the notices.
If Mr Pilot and MLAs loyal to him are disqualified, it will bring down the majority marks in the Rajasthan Assembly – a move that will benefit the Congress and Chief Minister Gehlot, since it will make proving their majority an easier task should a floor test be called.