Sachin Pilot and other Congress dissidents on Friday got a four-day reprieve from any action by Rajasthan Speaker on the disqualification notices served on them, as the high court extended the hearing into their petition to the next week.
The Rajasthan high court will resume the hearing at 10 am on Monday and Speaker C P Joshi will not take any action on the disqualification notices till 5.30 pm on Tuesday.
Outside the courtroom, the Congress and its government in Rajasthan acted tough, even sending a police team to a hotel in Gurgaon's Manesar where the dissidents are supposed to be holed up.
The party cited two audio clips on social media and demanded the arrest of Union minister Gajendra Shekhawat, alleging that he is heard in one of them during a conversation on a plot to bring down the Congress government in the state.
The Congress also suspended two dissident MLAs -- sacked minister Vishvendra Singh and Bhanwarlal Sharma -- from its primary membership.
In an FIR lodged with the Rajasthan police, the party alleged that Sharma was also heard in the audio clip.
The complaint by Congress chief whip Mahesh Joshi mentioned Gajendra Singh but stopped short of identifying him as the Union minister.
Both Shekhawat and Bhanwarlal Sharma have rejected the allegations, levelled by AICC spokesperson Randeep Surjewala at a press conference.
Sanjay Jain, the third man mentioned in the audio clips, was arrested late at night. Surjewala had referred to him as a Bharatiya Janata Party leader, a charge denied by that party.
The Special Operations Group was sent to a hotel in BJP-ruled Haryana's Gurgaon the to seek the dissident MLAs' version in connection with an FIR lodged over the audio clips, the unit's Additional Director General Ashok Rathore said.
The team was stopped outside the hotel for about an hour by Haryana policemen deployed there. The Rajasthan police were let in later, but told at the reception that the MLA was not staying there, and they returned, Rathore said.
Sachin Pilot and 18 other dissident MLAs are challenging the Congress move to disqualify them from the state assembly, and were initially asked to send their replies by 1 pm on Friday.
Speaker C P Joshi had written to the court that he will not act on the notices till 5 pm on Friday, by when the court proceedings were earlier expected to be over.
His counsel agreed to extend this breather to 5.30 pm on Tuesday as the division bench of Chief Justice Indrajit Mahanty and Justice Prakash Gupta had not delivered its order by that time.
An assembly statement said this was mutually agreed by both sides.
The petition had challenged the constitutional validity of the notices, based on a Congress complaint that they should be disqualified from the assembly for defying a party whip.
The Pilot camp argued that a party whip applies only when the assembly is in session.
In its complaint to the Speaker, the Congress had sought action against Pilot and the other dissidents under paragraph 2 (1) (a) of the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution.
The provision disqualifies MLAs if they "voluntarily give up" the membership of the party which they represent in the House.
They Congress claims that this is the inference that can be drawn from the MLAs conduct. But the dissident camp says Pilot never indicated any intention to leave the party.
Pilot was sacked as deputy chief minister and the president of the state unit of the party after he rebelled against Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot.
In the writ petition, the MLAs said that they continue to owe allegiance to the Congress and are not seeking to defect to any other party. But the petition made clear that they opposed the manner in which Gehlot functioned.
They claimed that the Speaker acted hastily in sending them the notices.
"The undue haste and swiftness exhibited by the authority concerned in taking cognisance of the said complaint leaves no doubt in the minds of the petitioners that the move is aimed at arriving at a foregone conclusion leading to the disqualification of the petitioners," it added.
The dissidents said that sensing a brewing discontent, the chief minister had called a legislature party meeting on July 13 without providing any specific agenda and levelled baseless allegations against them.
They claimed the SOG inquiry ordered recently by Gehlot was a ploy to threaten them against raising their voices on the "inefficiency" of the leadership within the party.
BJP state president Satish Poonia accused Surjewala of trying to defame Union Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat.
"Surjewala is giving statements as if he is the DG of the SOG," he said.