A Three Judge bench of Justices NV Ramana, Sanjiv Khanna and Krishna Murari has commenced the hearing on petitions filed by 17 disqualified Karnataka MLAs seeking to contest by-polls for 15 Assembly seats in the state.
"We are telling the world that we have resigned. And the Speaker says that our affidavit before the SC was also false? The motivation behind the resignation should not have been gone into. Giving any reason for the resignation makes it invalid...In saying that we flew to Mumbai , the Speaker behaved like a headmaster. Rejecting our resignations was also entirely wrong! The Speaker is the custodian of the House and not of any political party.And it is for the House to decide if the government will continue or fall...Similar grounds were taken in the complaints against all the disqualified MLAs...We are not debarred from resigning even if disqualification petitions are pending against us...", advanced Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi.
It was Mr. Rohatgi's plea on behalf of the disqualified MLAs that either the by-polls, the final date of filing the nominations for which is Monday, should be stayed, or, alternatively, the disqualified MLAs be allowed to contest the elections without prejudice.
"So one may become a member of the cabinet even after resigning, but the scenario is different where, with the resignation, there is a simultaneous disqualification", the bench sought to confirm.
"The Speaker has disqualified them for until the expiry of the term of the assembly. The Election Commission refuses to allow them till the SC says something...Rule 7 of the Karnataka Assembly Rules, which are framed under the Constitution, requires seven days, or even a further period, to be granted (where a motion for disqualification is moved). The period can be more than 7 days but cannot be less. What the Speaker has done is completely illegal. The Rules envisage a hearing, comments in writing, even evidence...Here, they were just given three days, and when they appeared before the Speaker, asking for time, the Speaker said 'sorry, no time will be given' and decided the disqualification", Mr. Rohatgi had contended.
"The Speaker said that the resignations may be voluntary in the sense that nobody has forced them, but they were motivated in the sense that we wanted to cross over to another party. The resignations were rejected and we have been debarred till 2023...Motivation is irrelevant! If I do not want to be an officer, then I do not want to be an officer!"
"Even if I am disqualified, I am still entitled to contest elections by virtue of Article 361B of the Constitution...Suppose a man is disqualified for wanting to join another party, the next day he would have joined and become a minister and then six months later conteste elections! That is why this provision is there!... So my disqualification date is either 2023 or until the new elections...so what the Speaker did was not wrong actually as he has to disqualify one till the end of the term of the assembly. But this is not a case of disqualification for corruption which will mandatorily last till the end of the term. This will last either till 2023 or until the next elections. The disqualification under Article 191(2) is for being a member of the House alone and not for being chosen as a member. So by virtue of 191(2) read with 361B , I have the right to contest these elections", he had said.
"I also don't want to go to the people bearing the scar of the disqualification...I am not scared of going back to the electorate! Let the people decide!", he concluded.
In his turn, Senior Advocate C. A. Sundaram, also for the disqualified MLAs, submitted, "Leaving a party is not a sin. Rejection does not imply defection. But one cannot follow the others like sheep. Dissent is the foundation of any democracy...The Speaker is the master of the House and not the head of a political party. If I am the member of one party and want to join another party, there is no crime in that! Only if I cross over to another party while being a MLA, while sitting in the House, would it be a sin..."