In what is being seen as a balancing act, the Supreme Court allowed the 15 rebel MLAs of the ruling coalition in Karnataka to not participate in Thursday’s trust vote, even while giving the Speaker the freedom to decide on their resignations and disqualifications as and when he wants.
“We also make it clear that until further orders the 15 Members of the Assembly, ought not to be compelled to participate in the proceedings of the ongoing session of the House and an option should be given to them that they can take part in the said proceedings or to opt to remain out of the same,” part of the order read.
In its interim order on Wednesday, the bench led by the Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi observed that the 15 rebel MLAs cannot be compelled to participate in Assembly proceedings despite a whip order being issued by the Congress and JD(S). This allows the dissident legislators to skip the crucial trust vote on Thursday.
The apex court also stated that the Speaker can decide resignations of the rebel MLAs as and when appropriate and the Supreme Court cannot fetter him. No deadline has been set for the Speaker to take a decision on the resignations. However, once the Speaker does make his decision on the resignations of the legislators, he would have to place it before the court, ordered the bench.
While delivering its interim order, the Supreme Court contended that it was imperative to maintain Constitutional balance and questions regarding immunity given to the Speaker from judicial proceedings has to be decided only at a later time. This is in continuance with the oral observations made on Tuesday by the bench when they had hinted that the “high status” with regards to the anti-defection law given two to three decades ago may need a relook.
“The imperative necessity, at this stage, is to maintain the constitutional balance and the conflicting and competing rights that have been canvassed before us… We also take the view that the present case the discretion of the Hon’ble Speaker while deciding the above issue should not be fettered by any direction or observation of this Court and the Hon’ble Speaker should be left free to decide the issue in accordance with Article 190 read with Rule 202 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in Karnataka Legislative Assembly framed in exercise of the powers under Article 208 of the Constitution,” the order read.
The Supreme Court’s interim order on Wednesday came after a marathon hearing of arguments by all sides. The timing of the order is crucial as a floor test scheduled on Thursday is set to seal the fate of the Congress-JD(S) government which is currently short of a majority in the Karnataka Assembly. The BJP has 107 MLAs including the support of two Independents, while the coalition has 101 legislators including the Speaker and a BSP MLA.
Minutes after the SC’s interim order, Speaker KR Ramesh Kumar said that he will act in an impartial way and continue with Thursday’s floor test as scheduled
The rebel MLAs were represented by former Attorney General of India Mukul Rohatgi, the Speaker by Abhishek Manu Singhvi and the Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy by Rajeev Dhawan. During the course of arguments, issues regarding the mutual exclusiveness of the Tenth Schedule (anti-defection law) and Article 190 (to vacate seats in the House/resignation) came up along with the Constitutional Court’s jurisdiction with regards to the Speaker’s decision.
The issue of May 2018’s midnight hearing also came up where a prompt Supreme Court order directed the Speaker to hold a floor test within 24 hours as opposed to two weeks’ time granted by the Governor to BS Yeddyurappa. As part of Tuesday’s arguments, the Speaker’s counsel pleaded that if allowed he can decide on the resignations or disqualification of these MLAs within 24 hours. Meanwhile, MLAs of all the three parties continue to reside in luxury resorts led by their respective leaders while the 15 rebel MLAs are in Mumbai.
Last week 10 rebel MLAs moved the Supreme Court seeking direction to the Speaker to accept their resignations without delay. The 10 MLAs in their plea had said Speaker KR Ramesh Kumar was delaying in approving their resignations and hence acting in a biased manner in light of the recent political crisis.
These 10 MLAs are Ramesh Jarkiholi (Gokak), Byrathi Basavaraj (KR Puram), ST Somashekhar (Yeshwanthpura), BC Patil (Hirekerur), Shivaram Hebbar (Yellapur), Prathapgouda Patil (Maski), Mahesh Kumathalli (Athani), K Gopalaiah (Mahalakshmi Layout), AH Vishwanath (Hunasuru) and Narayana Gowda (Krishanarajapete).
Then on Monday, five other MLAs had tagged on the same petition seeking a similar relief. Those five were Munirathna Naidu (RR Nagar), Roshan Baig (Shivajinagar), MTB Nagaraj (Hoskote), K Sudhakar (Chikkaballapura) and Anand Singh (Vijayanagara) who also levelled the same charges against the Speaker.
Source: The News Minute