Directing Speaker: SC acted in haste

Directing Speaker: SC acted in haste

Supreme Court

The Supreme Court seems to have acted in haste in directing Karnataka Speaker Ramesh Kumar to decide on the resignations of 10 rebel MLAs on the same day that the judgment was delivered. By doing so, the court has completely disregarded Article 190(3)(b) of the Constitution, which casts certain responsibilities on the Speaker before he/she accepts or rejects resignations of members of the legislative assembly. While under ordinary circumstances the Speaker accepts the resignation after giving the MLA a personal hearing, the Article makes it clear that, “If from information received or otherwise and after such inquiry as he thinks fit, the presiding officer is satisfied that such resignation is not voluntary or genuine, he shall not accept such resignation.” The Speaker is not required to act upon the resignation letter alone, as the Constitution empowers him to order an inquiry by the police or any other agency if he has information from his own sources that an MLA was coerced or influenced into resigning.

In the instant case, reasonable doubt could have arisen in the mind of the Speaker about the genuineness of the resignations as the rebel MLAs have been confined to a hotel in Mumbai with no access to the outside world for the past few days. On the appointed day, they were flown into Bengaluru in a chartered plane belonging to a company owned by a BJP Member of Parliament, transported to Vidhana Soudha under tight security, paraded before the Speaker and immediately whisked away back to Mumbai, without even being allowed to meet their families or friends. Given this background, it is beyond one’s reasoning how the court could expect the Speaker to discharge his constitutional obligation of ascertaining if the MLAs had resigned voluntarily in a matter of hours. The law also permits the MLAs to withdraw their resignations before they are accepted by the Speaker. Hence, natural justice demands that the Speaker should give them reasonable time to reconsider the decision.

When during the next hearing, the Speaker informed the court that disqualification proceedings were pending against some of the MLAs and he had to take a constitutional call on which of the two — resignations or disqualification petitions — to address first, the Chief Justice of India conceded that some “weighty issues” were involved and ordered status quo till July 16, effectively agreeing with Speaker Ramesh Kumar that he could not be expected to act at “lightning speed”. The court should not look at the present case in isolation but from a larger perspective of its future implications, especially in the light of elected representatives making a mockery of the anti-defection law.