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Did not avoid meeting rebel MLAs: Karnataka Speaker files affidavit in Supreme Court

Aditya AK

In the midst of the political crisis brewing in Karnataka, the Speaker of the State Legislative Assembly has filed an affidavit stating that he did not avoid meeting the Congress and JD(S) MLAs who wanted to tender their resignations to him.

Speaker KR Ramesh Kumar claims that he was not served a copy of the petition filed by ten MLAs claiming that the Speaker was delaying the acceptance of their resignations.

He has objected to remarks made by Senior Counsel appearing for the petitioners that “he had made himself scarce” when the MLAs tried to tender their resignations to him personally. The affidavit states,

“Such allegations it is submitted not only undermine the authority of the office of the Speaker but are absolutely fallacious to say the least and have been made only with an intent to mislead this Hon’ble Court.”

Kumar goes on to detail the chain of events since February 2019, when disqualification petitions were moved against two of the MLAs – Ramesh Jarkhiholli and Mahesh Kumathalli. Notices under Rule 7 of the Karnataka Legislative Assembly (Disqualification of Members on the Grounds of Defection) Rules, 1986 were issued to the two MLAs, who were asked to appear for a hearing. The decision on their disqualification has been reserved, the Speaker states.

Subsequently, another MLA, Anand Singh, tendered his resignation on July 1. 12 other MLAs followed suit, opting to resign on July 6.

The Speaker claims that none of the MLAs made an attempt to personally tender their resignations to him. They had gone to his office on July 6 at 2:30 pm. However, he was unable to meet them on that day as he had left the office for some personal work at 12:30 pm. Therefore, he claims, it is patently false to suggest that he had made himself scarce or was unavailable. He also claims that he had given appointments to 3 MLAs on July 12 and to 9 others on July 15.

It is also claimed that most of the resignation letters were not in the prescribed format. The MLAs then resubmitted the letters on July 10, the same day on which they filed the petition in the Supreme Court. The affidavit states,

“The MLAs during the course of hearing admitted that they had never tendered their resignation to the Speaker personally. The MLAs also confirmed that they had neither sought time nor an appointment with the Speaker. They also stated that it is wrong to state that when the MLAs had come to offer their resignation the Speaker had escaped from the back door…I am bringing this on record only to show that the Petitioners have misled the Court.”

The Congress party subsequently moved for disqualification of 8 MLAs.

A day after the petitioners approached the Supreme Court, the Bench headed by the Chief Justice of India had directed the Speaker to take a decision on the resignation of the MLAs on the same day.

Commenting on the decision, the Speaker has asked whether the Court ought to consider whether such a direction could have been issued within the framework of the Constitution. He has also sought time to reply to the writ petition moved by the MLAs in detail.

Wilful violation of Court’s directions

The MLAs, on the other hand, contended that the Speaker was served with a copy of the petition on the same day it was filed. It is also stated that the Speaker has wilfully disobeyed the directions of the Court passed on July 11, and that the recall application filed by him in the Supreme Court was impermissible.

The petitioners have also questioned the time taken by the Speaker to process their resignations. It is stated that as per Article 190(3)(b) of the Constitution, an elaborate hearing is not required to decide the issue. All that needs to be ascertained is whether the resignation was voluntary and genuine. These two conditions have been fulfilled, it is claimed.

On the disqualification petition moved by the Congress, the petitioners state,

“Even the present disqualification petition is absolutely without any grounds, which was filed by the Congress Party stating that they are to be disqualified on the ground that the MLAs have not attended Legislature Party Meeting held outside the House. It is submitted that the non-attendance of the Legislature party meeting outside the house does not amount to a ground for disqualification…

…The whole idea is to disqualify the Petitioners and under threat of disqualification allow a minority Govt. to function without the support of the majority in the house.”

In the wake of the whip issued by the Congress, the petitioners feel that they are being threatened and intimidated, while the Speaker sits on the issue of their resignation.

The Court had yesterday directed that status quo be maintained with respect to the resignations of the Karnataka MLAs. The Bench of Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose said that the case involves issues of substantial importance involving Articles 190 and 361 of the Constitution.

The matter will now be heard on Tuesday.

[Read the affidavit filed by the Speaker]

Karnataka-speaker-affidavit.pdf
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