'MLAs can't be disqualified for resigning from House'

'MLAs can't be disqualified for resigning from House'

PTI File Photo

An MLA can be disqualified for giving up membership of a political party, not for leaving his membership of the House, Karnataka Assembly Speaker told the Supreme Court.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for Speaker Vishweshwar Hegde Kageri, submitted before a three-judge bench that a member can't be proceeded under the Anti Defection Law for resigning from membership of the House.

"Once you are in party discipline, you have to follow it. But if your conscience does not allow, you can leave the party, give up membership of the House and go back to the electorate," Mehta said.

"The provision does not say if you give up membership of House, you are disqualified. Provision says you can be disqualified for giving up a political party," he added.

The bench, presided over by Justice N V Ramana and comprising Justices Sanjeev Khanna and Krishna Murari, asked Mehta what would be the role of the Speaker if disqualification and resignation proceedings are going on simultaneously.

"It is high time for the SC to lay down guidelines for the Speaker," Mehta said.

The current Assembly Speaker did not support expressly the orders passed by then Speaker K R Ramesh Kumar rejecting rebel MLAs resignations, disqualifying them and debarring them to be member of the ongoing term.

"I can't be critical about what happened in this case. Power conferred in the Speaker is under challenge. My arguments are only with regard to the power of the Speaker," Mehta said.

He cited the landmark 'Kihoto Hollohan vs Zachillhu And Others' (1992) to contend that the right to resign had been recognised for a member of the House.

"The issue involved here is relationship between elected representatives and party and electorate. If there is conflict, can I defect? The Constitution Bench says No. Possibly this would happen frequently and it travels beyond 17 MLAs. But right to resign has been recognised," he said.

Earlier on the day, senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for disqualified Congress MLA Pratap Gouda Patil and others sought a direction to suspend bypolls, or defer it or stay the disqualification. 

"We are not scared to go to the electorate. You can't say we are mixing with this party or that party," he said, adding the resignations of the MLAs were rejected wrongly by the then Speaker.

"The Speaker acted like Head Master of a school and said we went to Mumbai. He is custodian of House and not the political party. Whether govt will survive or fall, it is for the House to decide," he said.

He said the MLAs were telling the world at large that they have resigned. The Speaker said our sworn affidavit even before the Supreme Court was wrong, he said, adding he could not have gone into motivation for resignations.

Senior advocate C A Sundaram for disquified MLA Sudhakar and others, submitted that it is not a sin to leave a party.

"Basis of democracy is dissent. We can't act as sheep to follow the rest. Resignation from the House  does not mean I have defected and left the party," he said.

Senior advocate V Giri, appearing for MLA R Shankar, submitted that there was no formal merger of his party KPJP with Congress party, so he could not be subjected to whip.

The officials from the Speaker's Office said that there was no formal order for merger of KPJP with Congress. 

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