'MLAs contesting polls against spirit of 10th Schedule'

Ramesh Kumar

In July, the then Speaker K R Ramesh Kumar ordered the disqualification of 17 rebel Congress and JD(S) legislators, barring them from becoming members of the Assembly till 2023. The Supreme Court, while upholding the disqualification, has allowed the rebels to contest. Shruthi H M Sastry of DH spoke to Kumar on the verdict. Excerpts:

What is your take on the verdict?

The Supreme Court has the final say in this country. Like everyone else, even I abide by its decisions. I’d like to say that there was nothing personal in my judgment, when I decided on the disqualification of the MLAs. My decision was taken in the position of the Assembly Speaker.

Does the verdict bring you a sense of vindication?

I can’t say either way. The Supreme Court has partially allowed my judgment. What remains unanswered is whether a legislator’s resignation and disqualification can be treated on a par with each other. By upholding the disqualification, the court has recognised that the MLAs violated Constitutional provisions. The 10th Schedule of the constitution clearly mentions that their disqualification will be valid for the rest of their term.

If they’re eligible to contest elections and come back to power, where does it leave the objective of the 10th Schedule?

But what about a legislator’s free will to resign?

Every MLA always has the free will to resign. But, the Speaker must be convinced that the intention is genuine. Otherwise, there is no reason for him to agree to or accept their resignation.

The SC has also noted that the Speaker cannot go beyond his power.

The Speaker’s power is clearly stated in the law. I’ve only gone by the Constitutional provision. We’ve cited reasons for our decision. Compare it with the provisions under the Indian Penal Code. If someone commits an offence, you cannot send them back home after recognising their offence. There is a punishment clearly prescribed for every offence. There was a clear case of offence here.

The MLAs argued that they were not given adequate time and were disqualified in haste.

It was not done in haste. The decision was taken after consulting experts and after I went through in detail the Constitutional provisions. At that time, one of the MLAs said he got chest pain and was getting treatment in a hospital in Mumbai.

He sent a letter to the Speaker seeking leave of absence. But his absence from the House was mysterious. When our officers went to Mumbai to check on him, there was no such hospital there. If technicalities can overrule the spirit of the law, where are we headed?

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