The Supreme Court on Wednesday passed an interim order holding that the fifteen rebel MLAs of Karnataka assembly cannot be compelled to attend assembly proceedings, and that they were at liberty to skip attending house.
The bench of CJI Gogoi, Justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose also refused to fix a time frame for the Speaker to decide on the resignations submitted by the MLAs. The Speaker may decide within appropriate time frame, Court held.
This means that the dissident MLAs can skip the crucial trust vote meeting of the Congress- JD(s) government scheduled tomorrow, without facing any threat of disqualification.
Larger issues regarding powers of Court to issue directions to Speaker of Legislative Assembly will be examined later, said the CJI-led bench.
The Court took note of the trust vote scheduled tomorrow while passing the order, and observed "The imperative necessity, at this stage, is to maintain the constitutional balance and the conflicting and competing rights that have been canvassed before us".
Ten rebel MLAs from Congress-JD(S) had approached the Supreme Court stating that Speaker Ramesh Kumar was refusing to accept their resignations. Later five more rebel MLAs joined the petition.
The main issue before the Court was whether it could direct the Speaker to take a decision on the resignations submitted by the rebel MLAs, when disqualification proceedings have been initiated against them. The Court was called upon to decide disqualification proceedings should have precedence over requests for resignation.
Initially, the CJI-led bench had 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.
Appearing for the Speaker, 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.
He added that Court has limitations in issuing directions to the Speaker in respect of conduct of proceedings in house.
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.
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.
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 105 seats after the 2018 elections, Congress and JD(S) struck an out of blue alliance, stitching up 115 strength in the 224-members house.
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