Breaking: Liberty to Karnataka Speaker, freedom to rebel MLAs: What the SC held
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Breaking: Liberty to Karnataka Speaker, freedom to rebel MLAs: What the SC held

Murali Krishnan

The Supreme Court today directed the Speaker of the Karnataka Legislative Assembly to decide on the resignations of the rebel Congress and JD(S) MLAs within an “appropriate time frame”.

However, the Court refrained from laying down any particular time frame.

It also ordered that the 15 MLAs cannot be compelled to participate in the proceedings of the House.

Larger issues involved in the case deserved to be answered at a later stage, the Court further held.

A Bench of Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose pronounced the decision today.

On whether issues of constitutional law pertaining to the case needed to be deliberated upon, the Court stated that the questions could be answered at a later stage of the proceeding. For the time being, it held,

“The imperative necessity, at this stage, is to maintain the constitutional balance and the conflicting and competing rights that have been canvassed before us.”

Given the fact that a floor test is scheduled to take place at the Karnataka Assembly tomorrow, the Court held,

“In these circumstances, the competing claims have to be balanced by an appropriate interim order, which according to us, should be to permit the Hon’ble Speaker of the House to decide on the request for resignations by the 15 Members of the House within such time frame as the Hon’ble Speaker may consider appropriate.

We also take the view that in the present case the discretion of the Hon’ble Speaker while deciding the above issue should not be fettered by any direction or observation of this Court…”

With respect to the participation of the rebel MLAs in the ongoing Assembly session, it held,

“We also make it clear that until further orders the 15 Members of the Assembly, ought not to be compelled to participate in the proceedings of the ongoing session of the House and an option should be given to them that they can take part in the said proceedings or to opt to remain out of the same.”

Senior Counsel Mukul Rohatgi argued for the rebel MLAs, while Senior Advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi represented the Speaker of the Karnataka Legislative Assembly. Senior Advocate Rajeev Dhavan represented Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy.

On July 10, ten rebel MLAs of the Congress and the JD(S) in Karnataka approached the Supreme Court challenging the delay by the Speaker of State Assembly in accepting their resignations.

When the matter came up for hearing on July 11, the Court directed the Speaker of the Karnataka Legislative Assembly KR Ramesh Kumar to decide on the resignations tendered by the rebel MLAs.

Hours later, however, the Speaker moved the Supreme Court seeking recall of this order. He contended before the Supreme Court that he could take a call on the resignation only after an enquiry in terms of the proviso to Article 190(1)(b) of the Constitution, As per the Statement of Objects and Reasons to the Constitution 33rd Amendment, 1974, the Speaker should not accept the resignation unless he is satisfied that the resignation is voluntary and genuine, the application stated.

When the matter came up for hearing again on July 12, the Court ordered that status quo be maintained by the Speaker with respect to the resignations by rebel MLAs and the disqualification proceedings against them. The Bench had stated that the case involves issues of substantial importance involving Articles 164, 190 and 361 of the Constitution and that it should be heard at length.

After hearing the matter yesterday, the Court reserved its order. Over the weekend, five more rebel MLAs from Karnataka had approached the Supreme Court seeking impleadment in the case.

Read the order:

Karnataka-MLAs-order-Jul-17.pdf
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