K’taka crisis: SC puts Speaker in the dock

The Supreme Court on Tuesday put Karnataka Assembly Speaker K R Ramesh Kumar in the dock for failing to take a decision on the resignations of the rebel MLAs, despite its order. DH file photo

The Supreme Court on Tuesday put Karnataka Assembly Speaker K R Ramesh Kumar in the dock for failing to take a decision on the resignations of the rebel MLAs, despite its order.

Though the court agreed that it would have to do a balancing act vis-e-vis its power and the Speaker’s authority, it asserted, “To trap the jurisdiction of this court would be totally abhorrent to Constitutional scheme”.

Karnataka Crisis LIVE | SC reserves order on rebel MLAs plea for Wednesday

A bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi reserved its orders for 10.30 am on Wednesday on a plea by 10 rebel MLAs from the JDS-Congress government, who were subsequently joined by five disgruntled legislators, for a direction to the Speaker to decide on their resignations.

The top court had, on July 11, asked the Speaker to decide upon the MLAs resignation by 6 pm or remaining part of the day. Subsequently, it had, on July 12, directed for maintaining status quo on the MLAs’ fate and restrained the Speaker from deciding on resignations or disqualification proceedings against them.

On Monday, the Speaker, for his part, offered to decide both the disqualification as well as resignation by Wednesday, if the court modified its order for maintaining status quo on the rebel MLAs.

The court concluded hearing the arguments in over three-hour-long proceedings wherein questions were raised if the resignations of the disgruntled MLAs have to be decided by the Speaker before dealing with the disqualification proceedings. It questioned the linking of resignation of with the Tenth Schedule (anti-defection law) proceedings.

During the hearing, the court wondered if it can order appointment of pro-tem Speaker and conducting the floor test within 24 hours in Karnataka Assembly last May, why it can’t tell the Speaker to decide on the MLAs’ resignations.

The bench, also comprising Justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose, sought to know from the Speaker as why he did not decide upon the resignations.

The court observed it can’t be fettering the power of the Speaker, but it sought to know if there was an obligation for him to decide the disqualification before dealing with their resignation.

Senior advocate A M Singhvi, appearing for the Speaker, submitted before the court, “You are asked to issue mandamus consequences of which would be irreversible.”

“You may indicate the time limit. This is not an extreme case where you should intervene,” he said, offering to decide resignations and disqualification proceedings by Wednesday.

Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the rebel MLAs, contended pendency of disqualification was no bar to accept resignation. He said the 10 MLAs resigned on July 6, but the Speaker did not decide upon their resignations. He cited the example of then MLA Umesh Jadhav, whose resignation was accepted by the Speaker even though disqualification proceedings were pending.

“Disqualification is like mini trial and it is a matter of evidence, it is adversarial lis. It is my case, once resignations is moved, it must be decided within own parameters, that is, if it is voluntary and genuine. I can understand if a gun is put on a temple, but here they have appeared before the Speaker twice,” he said.

There is no way, the inquiry under Article 190 of the Constitution can be prolonged or mixed up with disqualification, Rohatgi said.

Senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan, appearing for Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy, said the rebel MLAs want to bring the government down.

They want the court to interfere with the Speaker’s power and enter the political thicket.

He warned that there would be political chaos and free run, when the trust motion is moved in Assembly on Thursday, if the court continued to maintain its order of status quo.

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