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U’khand: HC dismisses rebel Cong MLAs’ plea

Attempts by rebel Congress MLAs in Uttarakhand to stave off any adverse action against them ahead of government’s trial of strength did not fructify, with the High Court on Friday dismissing their plea for a stay on the show cause notices issued to them by the Assembly Speaker.

Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia dismissed the plea of nine rebel MLAs, seeking a stay on Speaker Govind Singh Kunjwal’s notices served to them under the anti-defection law, senior Supreme Court lawyer Dinesh Trivedi, counsel for the rebel MLAs, said outside the court. The court apparently felt it was premature at this stage to intervene in the matter.

The show-cause notices were served on the rebel Congress MLAs, after they allegedly aligned with the BJP in the State Assembly and claimed that the Harish Rawat government had been reduced to a minority. The move was seen as an attempt to buy time as the deadline for their reply to the Speaker s show-cause expires 5 pm on Saturday. The rebel MLAs sought the stay on the notice contending it was “in violation of natural justice and fair play”. 

Senior Supreme Court lawyer and former Union Minister Kapil Sibal appeared on behalf of the Speaker. The Speaker is expected to take a decision on the disqualification of the rebel MLAs. If disqualified, it will reduce the effective strength of the house from 70 to 61 which may make it easier for Rawat to scrape through in the trial of strength on March 28. 

Meanwhile, rebel Congress MLA leader and sacked minister Harak Singh Rawat shot off a letter to the Speaker seeking evidence to substantiate the charges on the basis of which the notice was issued to him. He sought an extension of at least 15 days to the time-limit for furnishing a reply. Alleging that the charges against him were based on hearsay, Harak asked the speaker to provide him a slew of documentary evidence including the unclipped video recording of the proceedings and the list of persons who attended the Assembly on March 18 when trouble erupted in the House. 

On that day, BJP and nine disgruntled members of the Congress insisted on a division of votes on the finance bill, a demand which was turned down by the Speaker.

The notices were issued to the nine rebel Congress MLAs just a day after the incident asking them to reply to the state assembly Speaker by 5 PM on March 26 why action should not be initiated against them under the anti-defection law for aligning with opposition BJP.

Later, talking to reporters in Nainital, Sibal said the basis on which Justice Dhulia rejected the plea of the rebel Congress MLAs will be known only when a copy of the order is made available.
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