Governor appoints BJP's Bopaiah as speaker; Cong moves SC

Last Updated 30 October 2018, 18:21 IST

This is a developing story...

The Congress party moved the Supreme Court of India on Friday challenging Governor Vajubhai Vala's decision to appoint BJP member and elected representative K G Bopaiah as the pro-tem Speaker of the Karnataka Assembly.

Raising questions over Vala's move, Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said that the Governor should have had appointed the senior-most MLA from the current assembly as the pro-tem speaker as per constitutional conventions. According to the Congress, its eight-time MLA R V Deshpande is the senior most lawmaker in the assembly.

Surjewala said it was “utmost important” to follow this practice at a time when the BJP and Vala had “hijacked” and “encountered” democracy in the state and were “conspiring” to “forcibly” form a government led by B S Yeddyurappa in the state.

“Deshpande is the senior most MLA in the Karnataka assembly. Though Deshpande belongs to the Congress, MLAs from the opposition too have always sworn by his reputation and neutrality...but they appointed a three-time MLA KG Bopaiah who is dented and tainted,” Surjewala added.

Surjewala said that Bopaiah, when the latter was assembly speaker in the state between 2009 and 2013, had allegedly violated democratic and constitutional norms to save the previous government of Yeddyurappa, who faced corruption charges then.

Considered close to Yeddyurappa, he had disqualified 11 disgruntled BJP and five Independent MLAs ahead of a trust vote to help the Yeddyurappa government in 2011.

Bopaiah’s decision was upheld by the Karnataka High Court but overturned by the Supreme Court, which said he had acted in haste.

“He is the same Bopaiah who had disqualified those BJP MLAs who had exposed the corruption of Yeddyurappa... The Supreme Court bench had said he did not believe in the Constitution, democracy. The SC had dismissed his orders (as speaker) with stinging strictures,” he added.

Governor Vala appointed Bopaiah as the pro-tem (for the purpose of) Speaker on Friday afternoon. Bopaiah, an MLA from Virajpet constituency in Kodagu district, was administered the oath of office by Governor Vala at Raj Bhavan on Friday.

On Saturday, Bopaiah is tasked with first administering the oath to the newly elected members of the Karnataka Assembly and will subsequently conduct a floor test for the B S Yeddyurappa government to prove its majority. The governor has summoned the Legislative Assembly at 11 am on Saturday.

As per convention, the Governor appoints the seniormost member as the Pro-tem Speaker. Eight-time MLA R V Deshpande of the Congress is the seniormost member in the House.

Controversial background

The newly appointed pro-tem Speaker K G Bopaiah, has a checkered past according to a judgement of the Supreme Court. Seven years ago, Bopaiah, the then Speaker, disqualified 11 BJP rebel MLAs and five Independents ahead of a crucial floor test for the then chief minister Yeddyurappa. In 2011, the Supreme Court quashed Bopaiah’s decision to disqualify 16 MLAs ahead of the no-confidence motion which ensured the survival of the Yeddyurappa government.

A bench headed by Justice Altamas Kabir, while quashing the Speaker’s decision, said basic constitutional values and principles of natural justice were not observed by Bopaiah while disqualifying the legislators.

"In our view, not only did the Speaker's action amount to denial of the principles of natural justice to the Appellants, but it also reveals a partisan trait in the Speaker's approach in disposing of the Disqualification Application filed by Shri B.S. Yeddyurappa. If the Speaker wished to rely on the statements of a third party which were adverse to the Appellants' interests, it was obligatory on his part to have given the Appellants an opportunity of questioning the deponent as to the veracity of the statements made in the affidavit. This conduct on the part of the Speaker is also indicative of the "hot haste" with which the Speaker disposed of the Disqualification Petition as complained of by the Appellants," wrote the Supreme Court in its judgment.

(Published 18 May 2018, 10:38 IST)

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