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Sunday 19 January 2020

Karnataka Speaker, MLAs vehemently disagree in SC

Ten rebel MLAs of the ruling coalition of Karnataka said in the Supreme Court their resignations had to be accepted; the Speaker asked for a day to decide

New Delhi: Ten rebel MLAs of the ruling Congress-JD(S) coalition of Karnataka on Tuesday said in the Supreme Court that their resignations “have to be accepted” as there is no other way to deal with the present political crisis and contended that the Speaker has to see only if the resignation is voluntary or not.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi is first dealing with the case of 10 lawmakers who approached the court first.

Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the rebel MLAs, told the court that the Speaker has to only see if the resignation is 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 the Speaker,” submitted Rohatgi.

There is a 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 6 July 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 10 July.

Ten rebel MLAs of Karnataka had moved the apex court alleging that the Speaker was not accepting their resignations: Pratap Gouda Patil, Ramesh Jarkiholi, Byrati Basavaraj, BC Patil, ST Somashekhar, Arbail Shivaram Hebbar, Mahesh Kumathalli, K Gopalaiah, AH Vishwanath and Narayana Gowda.

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

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

The apex court, which was dealing with the plea of 10 rebel MLAs on 12 July, will now be hearing five more lawmakers who have sought identical relief that Karnataka Assembly Speaker KR Ramesh Kumar accepts their resignations as well.

The five MLAs — Anand Singh, K Sudhakar, N Nagaraj, Munirathna and Roshan Baig — mentioned their application before a bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Deepak Gupta on Monday seeking as parties to the pending plea on which it was ordered that the Speaker would not take any decision till Tuesday on the resignations and disqualifications.

The top court had on Friday restrained the Speaker from taking any decision till 16 July on the resignation and disqualification of the rebel MLAs.

The top court had said an incidental question that would arise in the matter is the kind and extent of the directions that should be issued by a constitutional court to another constitutional functionary, which in the present case happens to be the Speaker of the Assembly.

Karnataka Speaker KR Ramesh Kumar
Karnataka Speaker KR Ramesh Kumar

Karnataka Assembly Speaker KR Ramesh Kumar on Tuesday said in the Supreme Court that he would decide on both disqualification and resignation of the rebel MLAs by Wednesday and requested it to modify its earlier order directing him to maintain status quo on the matter.

Senior advocate AM Singhvi, appearing for the Speaker, submitted before a bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi that nobody is saying that Speakers are not fallible but he 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 said. He also said that a valid resignation should be submitted to the Speaker personally and the MLAs appeared before him only on 11 July, 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.

Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the rebel MLAs, submitted before the bench that the Speaker can be directed to decide on the resignation of the MLAs by 2 PM 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 disqualification which was initiated after the resignation. Rohatgi said that the rules say to ‘decide now’ on resignation. “How can the Speaker keep it pending?” he asked.

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