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Jaipur:

 
The Rajasthan High Court on Thursday permitted former Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot, along with 18 other rebel Congress MLAs, to file an amended plea against the Speaker’s notice on their disqualification, and referred the matter to a division bench.

Pilot and his 18 MLAs challenged the constitutional validity of the Assembly Speaker’s notice sent to them.

Hearing the matter, via video conferencing, Justice Satish Kumar Sharma, of the court’s Jaipur Bench, in his order, said: “In view of the proposed amendment, the matter will have to be heard by the division bench of the court. Therefore, on the filling of the amended writ petition, the same be placed before honourable Chief Justice for the formation of an appropriate bench.”

The order came in after senior advocate Harish Salve, appearing for the petitioner, sought the court’s permission to file an application for amendment. Senior counsel Mukul Rohatgi also appeared for Pilot, while Abhishek Manu Singhvi represented the Ashok Gehlot government.

Rebel Congress leader Pilot and his 18 loyalist MLAs had moved the High Court against Speaker C.P. Joshi’s disqualification notice, alleging that he “was acting under Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot’s influence”.

However, the court had earlier deferred the hearing as Pilot’s side sought permission to amend their plea.

The petition, filed by MLA P.R. Meena on behalf of 18 other MLAs who were slapped notice for not attending two meetings of the Congress Legislature Party called in a Jaipur hotel and the Chief Minister’s residence, said that “they fear the Speaker would act as per Gehlot’s instruction without giving us a fair hearing”.

It also questioned the validity of notice issued by the Speaker.

Pilot moved the court ahead of Friday deadline which the Speaker had given to him and other rebel MLAs to respond. Joshi issued notices on Tuesday, after the Congress moved for their disqualification from the Assembly, saying they had defied the whip and not attended legislature party meetings.

Meanwhile, the BJP has questioned the whip, terming it unconstitutional and illegal.

“How can the Speaker issue a whip on MLAs for being absent from a legislature party meeting. Whip is issued if MLA is absent from any discussion in assembly proceedings, said BJP state president Satish Poonia.

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