After a marathon hearing which lasted nearly the whole day, the Supreme Court on Tuesday reserved orders on the plea by rebel MLAs from Karnataka assembly for directing the Speaker to decide on their resignations.
The CJI-led bench will pronounce orders tomorrow morning at 10.30 AM on whether to direct the Speaker to take a time bound decision on the resignations submitted by the legislators.
Significantly, the trust vote of the Congress-JD(S) Government under H D Kumaraswamy is scheduled on Thursday.
The main issue is whether the Court can direct the Speaker to take a decision on the resignations submitted by the rebel MLAs, when disqualification proceedings have been initiated against them.
Appearing for the petitioners, Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi submitted that notices of disqualification proceedings have been issued only against two rebel MLAs. He pointed out that one of the MLAs against whom disqualification notice was sent - Umesh Jadhav- had resigned on March 20. The Speaker had accepted his resignation. Therefore, Speaker himself has accepted resignations from MLAs facing disqualification notice. Roles of speaker under Article 190 and 10th Schedule of Constitution are different. Therefore, pendency of disqualification proceedings is not a bar to accept resignations, Rohatgi submitted.
Rohatgi denied that the MLAs had defected to join BJP. They want to go back to the people, he said.
The immunity under Article 212 of Constitution is that validity of house proceedings should not be called into question by the Court. But that is not a bar for the Court to direct the Speaker to take a time bound decision, he said.
Appearing for Speaker Ramesh Kumar, Senior Advocate Dr A M Singhvi submitted that disqualification proceedings were initiated last Feburary, much before the MLAs submitted their resignations.
"A valid resignation should be submitted personally. In this case, the MLAs personally presented themselves before the Speaker only on July 11", said Singhvi.
Disqualification has already taken place and Speaker has to decide on that first. Article 190 and Tenth Schedule of the Constitution are interdependent, he argued. Resignation cannot be used to ward off the consequences of disqualification which has already been incurred.
At this juncture, the CJI asked what stopped the Speaker from deciding if the resignations are voluntary after they have appeared before him on July 11.
In reply, Singhvi sought for a modification of the status quo order passed on July 12 so that the Speaker can decide on both disqualification and resignations by tomorrow.
Senior Advocate Rajeev Dhavan, appearing for the Chief Minister, urged the Court to refrain from passing any specific directions to the Speaker. He said that the Court exceeded its jurisdiction by directing the Speaker on July 11 to take a decision on the resignations.
"'This Court can interfere only after the decision is made and not before that. Judicial review cannot be exercised before the Speaker has taken a decision", he said.
Dhavan warned that the Court will be entering a 'political thicket' by accepting the petition of the MLAs, who he termed as 'hunting in a pack' for ministerial positions.
Ten rebel MLAs from Congress-JD(S) had approached the Supreme Court stating that Speaker Ramesh Kumar was refusing to accept their resignations.
Initially, the CJI-led bench passed an order permitting the MLAs to meet the Speaker at 6 PM on July 11, and 'requested' the Speaker to take a decision during the remaining course of that day.
However, the Speaker refused to act as per the SC-set deadline.
When the Court considered the matter on July 12, the next day, Senior Advocate Dr.A M Singhvi submitted on behalf of the Speaker that resignations were a ploy to avoid disqualification. The Speaker had the constitutional duty under Article 190(3)(b) to ensure that resignations were voluntary and were not caused by any coercion or inducement, Singhvi submitted. Therefore, he pleaded for more time to conduct the enquiry under anti-defection clauses under Schedule 10 of the Constitution.
Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi submitted for the rebel legislators that Speaker was deliberately delaying decision on resignations to cause the disqualification of the MLAs. Since the resignations were 'one line letters', Rohatgi wondered why so much time is required. He added that whip has been issued to the rebel MLAs to vote for the Government in the budget session, overlooking their resignations. This is a ploy to make them disqualified, submitted Rohatgi.
Based on these arguments, the Court had ordered status quo on the resignations and disqualifications of the legislators. The Court had said that matter involved 'substantial questions of law', regarding powers of the Court to issue directions to Speaker of the legislative assembly and posted the matter to Tuesday.
Later, five more rebel MLAs filed application to join as party in this case.
Meanwhile, the Karnataka CM H D Kumaraswamy announced that he will seek trust vote on Thursday.
The current crisis started on July 1 with the resignations of Vijayanagara MLA Anand Singh and Gokak MLA Ramesh Jarkiholi. Ramesh was already suspended from Congress for anti-party activities. Within a week, nearly thirteen more MLAs from Congress and JD(S) resigned. They are reportedly camping at Mumbai.
Though BJP emerged as the single largest party with 104 seats after the 2018 elections, Congress and JD(S) struck an out of blue alliance, stitching up 116 strength in the 224-members house.