Disqualification: SC to decide on Constitution bench

Disqualification: SC to decide on Constitution bench

The Supreme Court on Wednesday agreed to consider if the Constitution bench should examine the legal questions whether disqualification of an MLA should last till the term of Assembly or it should end with fresh elections. 

A bench of Justices N V Ramana, Sanjiv Khanna and Krishna Murari said that the court would examine the matter, as senior advocates Kapil Sibal along with Devadatt Kamat, appearing for Karnataka Congress leaders Siddaramaiah and Dinesh Gundu Rao, questioned the maintainability of writ petitions by the 17 disqualified MLAs against the then Speaker’s decision and sought an order to refer the matter to the Constitution bench.

“Since, we have substantially heard the matter and there is a pending elections, we will consider the question,” the bench told the counsel as it resumed hearing arguments on behalf of the disqualified MLAs from Congress and JDS, whose action paved the way for formation of B S Yeddyurappa-led BJP government in the state.

Notably, vacancy in 225-seat Karnataka Legislative Assembly would have to be filled within the mandatory six-month period, which will end on December 25. Seventeen seats of disqualified MLAs were notified on July 25.

The Congress leaders, for their part, cited the apex court’s order on July 12, 2019 on a petition filed by Pratap Gouda Patil and others, which stated that the issue arising in the case is whether resignations submitted by an MLA at a point earlier than petitions for their disqualification under the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution should have priority in the decision-making process. Or whether both resignation and disqualification should be taken up simultaneously or disqualification proceedings should have precedence over the resignations.

“The instant case raises complex questions of interpretation of the Constitution including the interplay between Article 190(3)(b) and the Tenth Schedule (anti-defection law),” their plea stated.

Among other questions which required final adjudication by the top court are as to what should be extent of punishment for a disqualified MLA, if he is not entitled to hold the post of minister until the next election or whether the penalty for disqualification extends to remaining period of the House, they said.