The Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld the disqualification of 17 rebel Karnataka MLAs by former Assembly Speaker KR Ramesh Kumar but allowed the legislators to contest the bypolls slated on December 5.

The apex court struck down Speaker’s decision to disqualify them till the end of the term of the Legislative Assembly.

A bench headed by Justice NV Ramana ruled that the Assembly Speaker is not empowered to disqualify MLAs till the end of the term of the House.

The former speaker had said in his order that the MLAs cannot contest elections until the term of the current assembly ends in 2023.

Bypolls to 15 out of 17 Karnataka assembly seats, which became vacant following the disqualification of MLAs, are scheduled on December 5.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has refrained from commenting on the validity of the resignation.

The apex court emphasised on the constitutional morality saying that the Speaker can only examine if the resignation is voluntarily or otherwise.

The Supreme Court opined that there is no doubt that disqualification takes place when there is defection.

Justice NV Ramana also observed in his verdict on the growing trend of Speakers acting against the constitutional mandate, saying, “Citizens are denied stable governments.”

The disqualified MLAs had argued in the court that they had an “indefeasible right” to resign as members of the assembly and criticised the speaker’s decision to disqualify them.

In an interim order in July, the Supreme Court had said that Speaker KR Ramesh Kumar was free to decide on resignations of the rebel MLAs.

15 rebel legislators, including 12 from the Congress and 3 JD(S) had resigned from the house, and two Independents withdrew support leading to the fall of the 14-month coalition government in Karnataka.

Then Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy had resigned after losing a trust vote, which paved the way for the BJP-led government in Karnataka under BS Yediyurappa.