After elaborate hearing for nearly an hour, the Supreme Court on Friday ordered to maintain status quo with respect to resignations and disqualification of ten MLAs of Karnataka assembly.
The CJI-led bench of the Court said that issues of substantial importance arose in the case, particularly relating to Court's power to issue directions to Speaker to take decisions within a time frame, and said that the matter required deep consideration. The Court has adjourned hearing to next Tuesday.
Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi appearing for the petitioners submitted that the Speaker had acted in contempt of Court by refusing to act as per the SC-set deadline for a decision on the resignations submitted by ten legislators. The resignations were "one line letters" for which not much time is needed for a decision, Rohatgi said. He pointed out that whip has been issued to the MLAs to be present in house and vote on budget. This is a ploy to cause their disqualification by delaying acceptance of their resignation.
Countering this, Senior Adv Dr AM Singhvi said that the Speaker had the constitutional obligation under Article 190(3)(b) to ensure that the resignations were voluntary and genuine. The rebel MLAs are attempting to avoid disqualification by tendering resignations. The Speaker has to enquire on whether they have incurred disqualification as per anti-defection clauses under Schedule 10 of the Constitution, which cannot be done in a hurried fashion, Singhvi said.
Senior Advocate Rajeev Dhawan appearing for Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy submitted that the petition was "overtly political", containing no grounds for interference under Article 32. No fundamental rights have been infringed by the so called delay of the Speaker, Dhawan argued. Though the Court can review the decision of the Speaker in exceptional circumstances, it cannot issue directions to the Speaker even before a decision is made, Dhawan added.
Speaker refuses to be pushed around by SC
The Speaker Ramesh Kumar had refused to act as per the deadline set by the Court yesterday for a decision on the resignation of MLAs.
"MLAs did not communicate to me and rushed to the Governor. What can he do? Is it not misuse? They approached the Supreme Court. My obligation is to the people of this state and the Constitution of the country. I am delaying because I love this land. I am not acting in haste", Speaker Kumar told media after meeting the MLAs.
The CJI-led bench had on Thursday morning asked the ten rebel MLAs to present themselves before the Speaker at 6 PM to submit their resignations. The Speaker was 'requested' to take a decision on resignations within rest of the day itself. The Bench comprising of Chief Justice Gogoi, Justice Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose added that it will consider the matter further on Friday.
Following this, an urgent application was filed by the Speaker yesterday afternoon, seeking recall of the order. Citing Article 190 of the Constitution, the Speaker said that deadline cannot be set for performing a constitutional function. It has to be examined if the resignations were voluntary or caused by coercion or inducements, for which more time will be needed, the Speaker said in the application.
As per proviso to Article 190(3)(b) of the Constitution, the Speaker is not bound to accept the resignation if he finds that it was not voluntary and genuine.
The CJI-led bench however turned down the plea of Senior Advocate Dr A M Singhvi for urgent hearing of the application, which in effect meant that the midnight deadline set by the Court was not changed.
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.