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NEW DELHI: Sachin Pilot and 18 other dissident Congress MLAs approached the Rajasthan high court on Thursday against the assembly speaker’s disqualification notice as the state continues to witness political uncertainty. A division bench of the high court has deferred the hearing till 1pm Friday. Here are the key developments of the day:
* Senior advocate Harish Salve, who is appearing for Pilot and the 18 Congress MLAs, said the petition seeks to challenge the constitutional validity of the assembly speaker’s notice.
* The matter first came up before the court of Justice Satish Chandra Sharma at about 3pm today, but Salve sought time to file an amended petition.
* At about 5pm, an amended petition was submitted and the court referred it to a two-judge division bench. The bench said it will hear the matter at 7.30pm. The bench later said that the amended petition will now be heard at 1pm Friday.
* The 19 MLAs were sent notices from the Speaker’s office on Tuesday and allowed up to Friday to give their replies. The notices came after the Congress complained to the Speaker that the MLAs had defied a party whip to attend two Congress Legislature Party meetings. The Pilot camp argues that a party whip applies only when the assembly is in session.
* In the 200-member assembly, the Congress has 107 MLAs and the BJP 72. If the dissident MLAs are disqualified, the current strength of the state assembly will be reduced to 181, slashing the half-way mark to 91 and seemingly making it easier for Gehlot to retain majority support.
* The issue has also brought to the fore the Speaker’s power under the Constitution to entertain pleas seeking disqualification of MLAs. “Rajasthan speaker’s notice to Pilot and others with him is patently illegal and beyond the scope of tenth schedule of the Constitution. They have not joined or expressed a wish to join or support BJP,” senior lawyer and Constitutional law expert Rakesh Dwivedi said.
* Meanwhile, in an interesting twist to the political melee, Lok Sabha MP Hanuman Beniwal has claimed that former Rajasthan CM Vasundhara Raje is trying to save the Ashok Gehlot government. In a series of tweets, Beniwal claimed that Raje has called many Congress MLAs to ensure the survival of the government in Rajasthan.
(With inputs from agencies)

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