MLAs ought not be forced to attend House on July 18: SC

Supreme Court directed on Wednesday that the 15 rebel Congress and JD(S) MLAs "ought not" to be compelled to take part in the proceedings of the Karnataka Assembly. (File Photo)

The Supreme Court on Wednesday declined to fix any deadline for the Assembly Speaker to decide upon the resignations of 15 rebel MLAs who put the ruling JDS-Congress government on brink of collapse.

A three-judge bench presided over by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, however, said, "until further orders the 15 Members of the Assembly, ought not to be compelled to participate in the proceedings of the ongoing session of the House".

"An option should be given to them that they can take part in the said proceedings or to opt to remain out of the same," the court added. 

In its interim orders, the bench said, "The no-trust motion against the present Government, we are told, is due for being taken up on 18th July, 2019. In these

circumstances, the competing claims have to be balanced by an appropriate interim order, which according to us, should be to permit the Speaker of the House to decide on the request for resignations by the 15 Members of the House within such time frame as the Speaker may consider appropriate."

The discretion granted to the Assembly Speaker under the Constitution to exercise his power must not be interfered with for the time being, the court said.

The court said it was passing the interim orders in view of the facts and circumstances of the matter and to ensure "Constitutional balance" and "competing rights".

"The imperative necessity, at this stage, is to maintain the constitutional balance and the conflicting and competing rights that have been canvassed before us. Such an interim exercise has become prudent in view of certain time frame exercise(s) that is in the offing in the Karnataka Legislative Assembly," the court said.

The bench, also comprising Justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose, refused to set the "time frame" for Speaker K R Ramesh Kumar to take a decision on the resignations, saying his discretion must not be fettered with and he should be left free to decide the issue under Article 190 of the Constitution and Rule 202 of the Rule of the Procedure and Conduct of Business of the Karnataka Legislative Assembly.

Notably, the Speaker had on Tuesday urged the court not to pass any order and instead proposed to decide upon the resignations by Wednesday itself.

The court, in its orders, also took into consideration of the rebel MLAs plea to allow them not to participate in the House proceedings on Thursday.

The court said it was not answering legal questions at the moment. It said as and when the orders were passed by the Speaker, the same should be placed before it for proceeding further in the matter.

The court passed its orders on a writ petition filed by disenchanted MLAs led by Pratap Gouda Patil and nine others. Five others have subsequently joined them in the court to seek a direction to the Speaker to decide upon their resignations.

The Speaker had maintained he would decide upon the disqualification petitions first. He said he would decide resignations earliest and in accordance with the law.

The rebel MLAs, holed up in a Mumbai hotel, faced threat of being disqualified, which may disable them to join immediately an alternative government, if formed, leaving them with a choice to get re-elected and be a part of such a dispensation. However, disqualification proceedings are unlikely to be completed within a short span of time before the crucial trust vote.

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