Crying foul over the Speaker’s ruling, the aggrieved legislators moved the division bench of the high court, comprising Chief Justice J S Khehar and Justice N Kumar, separately. The court adjourned the matter for Tuesday.
The State Government and the disqualified MLAs employed the services of Soli J Sorabjee and P P Rao, two of the country’s best-known minds on constitutional law, respectively, to battle out the matter in court.
Through their counsel, Rao, the disqualified MLAs contended that the Speaker rushed through the proceedings under Schedule 10 of Article 14 of the Constitution without serving notice on the petitioners personally and without supplying copies of the petition filed by Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa.
According to the legislators’ submission, the Speaker’s show cause notice of October 7 did not reach them as they were out of Bangalore when the House was not in session. The petitioners submitted that Bopaiah did not verify the complaint of the chief minister and directed them to appear before him on or before October 10 at 5 pm. The legislators approached the Chief Justice’s residence in the morning, seeking his intervention in the matter. After Justice Khehar directed them to make a proper submission in court, the MLAs submitted before the division bench that the Speaker acted in haste and that his malafide actions were aimed at ensuring Yeddyurappa winning the trust vote in the Assembly.
Rao, who flew in from Delhi late last night specially to represent the legislators, submitted that Bopaiah’s notice was clearly in violation of the Karnataka Legislative Assembly (Disqualification of Members on Ground of Defection) Rules, 1986.
It was Rao’s contention that the notice ought to have a given a minimum of seven days to the legislators to reply, which was a requirement of basic principles of natural justice.
Pointing out that the Yeddyurappa government was corrupt and that the chief minister was acting like a “despot”, Rao said in court that his clients, the 11 BJP MLAs, had not resigned from the party but had quit the State Government.
“This cannot amount to disqualification as my clients have not indulged in anti-party activities,” Rao submitted, adding that the action did not amount to defection, because “defection means leaving the party and joining another and the petitioners have not left the party.”Citing several past instances which shook the Yeddyurappa government, Rao argued that the even the Lokayukta had resigned after levelling allegations of corruption against the government.
Sorabjee, appearing for the Speaker and the Chief Minister, said Bopaiah’s ruling was in compliance with the principles of natural justice.
He cited some Supreme Court orders, including the Goa MLA Rani Naik’s case, said that the Speaker’s “order was in full compliance with natural justice under the 10th Schedule of the Constitution". While seeking a stay on the Speaker’s ruling before it is quashed, the petitioners have called for production of all records before the court.