Rajasthan Assembly Speaker CP Joshi has chosen the path of getting a clear judicial verdict on the role of the Speaker in matters related to the legislature. He has sought a clear verdict from the apex court on the rights and powers of the Speaker and also seeking clarity on the do’s and don’ts.
Joshi jumped into the ongoing power struggle in the state over the issue of the Sachin Pilot-led dissidents by serving them all with notices over the issue of not attending the Congress Legislature Party’s meeting convened in Jaipur by Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot. The 19 rebels did not respond to the intimation of the Chief Whip asking the rebels to attend the legislative party’s meeting in accordance with the whip issued by him.
The rebels, much to the discomfort of the Speaker, were successful in obtaining an order from Rajasthan High Court that said that the show cause notices served by the Speaker were “invalid” as the meeting convened was outside the purview of the House and a meeting held outside the House do not attract the whip. Thus the dissidents were free to attend or not to attend the meeting.
The Speaker, after failing to get a favourable order from the apex court, filed a revised Special Leave Petition against the order of the Rajasthan High Court. The prayers in the first Special Leave Petition were too weak as they were confined to seeking a restraint on the High Court’s orders. The first SLP stressed that the High Court overstepped its powers in interfering with the order of the Speaker, unmindful of the fact that the Speaker enjoys a quasi-judicial authority also.
In the first SLP, the Speaker criticized the High Court for almost protecting the protesting dissidents. He made a sharper attack on the High Court’s order by recalling the 1992 Hollohan judgement of the Supreme Court which restrained the judiciary of interference in matters relating to disqualification of MLAs and said that the matter was within the purview of the Speaker.
Speaker Joshi showed his wisdom through the revised SLP which said that the High Court by restraining the Speaker from performing his duties had committed judicial indiscipline and judicial impropriety, citing the judgement of the Supreme Court in the Hollohan case. Joshi backed his plea citing the constitutional validity of the Tenth Schedule of the anti-defection law and questioned the order of the High Court in the light of the decision of the Supreme Court in Hollohan case.
Joshi also stressed that the High Court wrongfully acted as an appellate court on a judgement delivered by the Supreme Court which amounted to judicial indiscipline.
The issues raised by Joshi would go a long way on redefining the rights and powers of Assembly Speakers on issues like disqualification of MLAs. The judicial observers of the country are keenly awaiting the Supreme Court’s views and verdict on the issues raised through the revised SLP by Joshi.
Joshi earlier said that he planned to move the SC to avert what he called a “constitutional crisis”. “The Speaker has the right to disqualify MLAs. No one can interfere in the Speaker’s decision,” he said, adding that whatever judgment the Rajasthan High court had given, he had respected till then. “However, does this respect and acceptance mean that one authority overlaps the role of the other?” he said.