Karnataka Political Crisis: Live Updates from the Supreme Court
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Karnataka Political Crisis: Live Updates from the Supreme Court

Bar & Bench

The hearing in the matter related to the resignation of Congress and JD(S) MLAs from Karnataka is currently underway at the Supreme Court.

The matter is being heard by a Bench of Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose.

Last week, the Court had ordered that status quo be maintained by the Speaker of the Karnataka Legislative Assembly 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.

A day earlier, the Court had 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.

Since the last hearing, the Speaker 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. Over the weekend,  five more rebel MLAs from Karnataka approached the Supreme Court seeking impleadment in the case.

Live updates of the hearing follow:

Submissions of Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi

  • Hearing commences; Mukul Rohatgi making submissions.
  • Role of Speaker under Article 190 and role under Tenth Schedule are different.
  • All ten petitioners resigned on July 10. Out of the ten, disqualification proceedings were pending against 2 of them.
  • One of those two, Umesh Jadhav resigned and his resignation was accepted.
  • The five applicants seeking impleadment in the matter had also resigned.
  • In Jadhav’s case, resignation was accepted notwithstanding disqualification proceedings. So Speaker did not consider it a bar then.
  • It is my case that resignation once moved, should be decided in its own turn and sphere under Art. 190 notwithstanding pendency of disqualification proceedings.
  • I am not saying quash the disqualification proceedings. Disqualification can go on. I am saying I dont want to be an MLA. I don’t want to defect. I want to go back to public and do whatever I want to do.
  • It is my right to do what I want to do. Speaker is infringing that right of mine.
  • If you deduct the number of petitioners who are before this Court, then this government will go.
  • “What is the ground for disqualification proceedings?” asks CJI Ranjan Gogoi. “That I am not acting in consonance with the party”, says Rohatgi.
  • There is no real material for disqualification. That is why it has been pending for so long. And my case is even if there are disqualification proceedings, that cannot be a bar for resignation, Rohatgi contends.
  • This (disqualification proceedings) is nothing but an attempt to stutter the resignations.
  • Rohatgi explaining the differences in consequences of resignation and disqualification. One important aspect being that on resignation, the MLA can join other party, contest by elections and become Minister.
  • Art. 190 says if resignation is by hand and there is no other material, the Speaker has to take a decision as fast as possible. He cannot keep it pending.
  • These people are before Supreme Court saying they have resigned, crying before TV they have resigned. And yet this is allowed to continue, this is ridiculous.
  • The fallacy of their argument is that it is based on my motive to resign which is completely irrelevant.
  • Reasons for resignation could be many. Unless it is involuntary, Speaker cannot keep it pending.
  • In this case, Speaker says reason for resignation is to avoid disqualification. That does not mean it is involuntary. Hence, he cannot keep it pending.
  • There is no fetter on powers superior courts to ask Speaker to decide within a time frame.
  • So what is the order you are seeking? asks CJI Ranjan Gogoi. The order which Your Lordships passed on the first day, asking Speaker to decide within a time frame, replies Rohatgi.
  • Mukul Rohatgi referring to 2018 May order passed by Supreme Court directing for floor test to be conducted in Karnataka Assembly within a day for BS Yeddyurappa to prove majority. So Court can issue order prescribing time frame to Speaker.
  • Stand of Speaker is no direction is contemplated against Speaker under Art. 192, Rohatgi concludes submissions.

Submission of Senior Advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi

  • He has made a factual error – all disqualification proceedings are prior to resignations.
  • The act of disqualification is the act of defiance of whip.
  • Adjudication by Speaker is confirmation of pre-existing fact.
  • The first step to start inquiry under Art . 190 is for concerned MLA to appear before Speaker in person. In this case, that has happened on July 11.
  • 11 of the 15 MLAs handed over resignations personally to Speaker only on July 11. Four of the MLAs are yet to do so.
  • CJI Gogoi asks about Speaker being unavailable for an appointment and eventually MLAs having to come to Court. Singhvi says that it is factually wrong and Speaker has filed an affidavit to that effect that an appointment was not sought.
  • I am very strongly suggesting that he has to decide on disqualification, says Singhvi relying on various judgments. How can they resign and get rid of disqualification?
  • “Are Tenth Schedule and Article 190 interdependent?” asks Justice Aniruddha Bose. “Yes”, says Dr. Singhvi emphatically.
  • Resignation cannot be an escape route to avoid disqualification.
  • Suppose there is a floor test tomorrow and an MLA wants to resign today which will lead to govt falling. That resignation is itself disqualification, since it is against the party’s interests.
  • So this case is actually a disqualification case and Kihoto Hollohan applies.
  • Your Lordships can allow this to play out and then sit in judicial review over Speaker’s decision which Your Lordships are entitled to.
  • “Why can’t you decide on the resignations?” CJI Gogoi asks. “I am. I am in fact looking at both resignations and disqualification holistically. I am doing better”, Singhvi replies.
  • “Then decide the resignations”, CJI Ranjan Gogoi says. The discussion moves on to the Supreme Court’s power to interfere with the Speaker’s powers.
  • “Last year we ordered Speaker to conduct floor test in 24 hours. You did not object to it then because it went in your favour”, CJI Gogoi to Dr. Singhvi on SC’s power to give directions to Speaker.
  • Dr. Singhvi seeks to distinguish that instance, saying it was about government formation. They are asking Your Lordships to interfere everywhere and do Speaker’s job, he further submits.
  • Singhvi says in May 2018, during Karnataka government formation, there was no direction to the Speaker. CJI rebuts saying that Supreme Court interfered because Governor had given 15 days to BJP prove majority and SC felt that was incorrect.
  • Dr. Singhvi places reliance on Kihoto Hollohan and asks whether all of it should be ignored. Art. 190 cannot be argued in isolation, he says.
  • There is a direct link between the resignations and disqualification proceedings in this case. They are asking Your Lordships to look at it independently.
  • Singhvi reiterating that all resignations happened only on July 11 and all disqualification proceedings pre-date resignations.
  • Bench rises for lunch, hearing to resume at 2 pm.
  • Bench assembles, hearing resumes in Supreme Court.
  • You (Dr. Singhvi) say resignation is to circumvent disqualification. Rohatgi says Tenth Schedule is being invoked to defeat his right to resign. Both are weighty issues and we need to balance it, CJI Ranjan Gogoi.
  • The order of Justice Sikri in May 2018 has been distorted and presented to this court. That order was given at a time when there was no Government or Speaker. So a protem speaker was given directions. Dr. Singhvi concludes arguments.

Submissions of Senior Advocate Rajeev Dhavan

  • Strategy of other side has been clearly disclosed. They have clearly said once resignations are accepted they will later become Ministers. So that motive is what Speaker has to go into.
  • They are hunting in pack. They flew to Bombay when they could have met the Speaker.
  • Mukul Rohatgi intervenes, says he never said rebel MLAs want to be ministers.
  • “Ok. CJI asked can they become Ministers and you said yes”, Dhavan rephrasing his argument.
  • Your Lordships do not have jurisdiction. The two interim orders passed last week was in excess of this Court’s jurisdiction.
  • Supreme Court Rules are clear – that it will not entertain a petition under Article 32 unless there is a fundamental right involved.
  • Article 190 should be read along with the Tenth Schedule.
  • Speaker has to take notice of the fact that 15 MLAs are hunting in a pack.
  • Your Lordships are being persuaded to say ‘abandon all due process under A. 190’.
  • Voluntariness (of resignation under A. 190) is not something to be inquired into by Speaker mechanically.
  • Rajeev Dhavan now making submissions on “political thicket”.
  • Political thicket doctrine does not say to Your Lordships “we can enter any political thicket we like”.
  • There has to be a full debate. There cannot be a truncated debate on this.
  • Rajeev Dhavan concludes his arguments.

Rohatgi’s rejoinder submissions:

  • Mukul Rohatgi now countering argument of Speaker that no fundamental right is violated My right to resign and do what I want is being violated.
  • Constitutional Rules mandate Speaker to decide immediately provided it is genuine and voluntary. Speaker has no mandate under Constitution to go into my mind to find out why I have resigned.
  • He is importing Tenth Schedule into resignations which is completely irrelevant.
  • Suppose Speaker does not decide on disqualification for 4 years, then will our resignations also be kept pending or what?
  • This is a govt which has lost majority and the Speaker only wants to prop up a govt which is in minority.
  • I have a fundamental right to resign and walk away, Rohatgi concludes.
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