Karnataka crisis: SC verdict on pleas of rebel MLAs today

NEW DELHI, JULY 17: The Supreme Court will on Wednesday morning pronounce its order on the pleas of 15 rebel Congress-JD(S) MLAs seeking direction for Karnataka speaker K R Ramesh Kumar to accept their resignations from the assembly.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi concluded the hearings of the rebel MLAs, the speaker and Karnataka chief minister H D Kumaraswamy. 

Summing up the arguments, senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the 15 MLAs, asked the bench to continue with its interim order directing the speaker to maintain status quo on the issue of resignations and disqualification of the MLAs.

The counsel for the rebel MLAs also asked the bench that if the House assembles for business, the 15 rebel MLAs be exempted from appearing on the basis of the whip of the ruling coalition which, he said, has been reduced to minority government.

Kumaraswamy told the top court that it had no jurisdiction to pass the two interim orders asking the speaker to decide and, later, to maintain the status quo on the resignations and disqualification of the rebel MLAs.

Senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan, appearing for Kumaraswamy, told the bench that the speaker cannot be compelled to decide this issue in a time bound manner.

"When resignation process is not in order, court cannot direct speaker to decide by 6pm," Dhavan told the bench, also comprising Justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose.

Kumaraswamy also told the court that the rebel MLAs were hunting in a pack to destabilise his government and that the court should not have entertained their petitions.

Senior advocate A M Singhvi, appearing for the speaker, told the bench that no direction was issued to the Karnataka speaker by the court in the midnight hearing when floor test was ordered and B S Yedurappa was invited to form the government last year.

He told the bench that the speaker was yet to decide on the resignations and disqualification of rebel MLAs and the court had ample power to punish.

Speaker urged the apex court to modify its earlier order directing him to maintain status quo in the ongoing political crisis in the state even as the rebel MLAs accused him of acting in a partisan manner by not deciding on their resignations.

Singhvi said the speaker would decide on both disqualifications and resignation of the rebel MLAs by Wednesday but the court should modify its earlier order asking him to maintain status quo.

Rohtagi argued that the speaker cannot keep the resignation of these MLAs pending and by doing so he is acting in a partisan manner.

Countering his submissions, Singhvi told the bench that speakers cannot be asked to decide the matter in a time-bound manner.

"How can the speaker be directed to decide in a particular manner?" Singhvi asked the court. "Such orders are not passed even to a trial court."

He also said that a valid resignation should be submitted to the speaker personally and the MLAs appeared before him only on July 11, five days after they submitted their resignations to his office.

The rebel MLAs told the court that the speaker kept their resignation pending just to disqualify them and there was nothing wrong in resigning to escape disqualification.

Rohatgi submitted before the bench that the speaker can be directed to decide on the resignation of the MLAs by 2pm and he can take a call on their disqualification later.

The bench asked Rohatgi if there was any constitutional obligation on the speaker to decide on the MLAs' disqualification which was initiated after the resignation.

Rohatgi said the rules say to 'decide now' on resignation. "How can the speaker keep it pending?"

The rebel MLAs told the court that the state government has been reduced to minority and the speaker, by not accepting their resignations, has attempted coercing them to vote for the government in trust vote.

Disqualification proceeding is a mini-trial under the Constitution's 10th Schedule, Rohatgi said, adding that resignation is different and its acceptance is based on a single criterion alone — whether it is voluntary or not.

There is nothing to show the rebel MLAs conspired with BJP, the senior advocate said.

The disqualification proceeding was nothing but to scuttle resignation of MLAs, he said.

He also told the court that the disqualification proceedings were initiated for not being a disciplined soldier of the party and for not attending meetings outside the House.

The bench further asked if all the disqualification pleas are on same grounds, to which Rohatgi replied "more or less same".

He had also told the court that the speaker has to only see if the resignations were voluntary or not.

"Resignation has to be accepted, there is no other way to deal with it," Rohatgi told the court.

"It is my fundamental right to do whatever I want to do and cannot be bound due to non-acceptance of resignation by speaker," submitted Rohatgi.

There is vote of confidence in assembly and the rebel MLAs may be forced to follow whip despite resigning, he said.

Rohatgi told the court that the 10 MLAs resigned on July 6 and disqualification proceedings against two lawmakers were pending.

"When was the disqualification proceedings filed against rest eight MLAs," the top court asked, to which Rohatgi responded that disqualification proceedings started against them on July 10.  

PTI

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