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Can we be forced to attend Assembly? Karnataka rebel MLAs during SC hearing on resignations

The Speaker had earlier put the resignations on hold and argued that his constitutional duties mandated him to verify whether the resignations tendered by the MLAs were voluntary or forced.

SNS | New Delhi |

Karnataka rebel MLAs told the Supreme Court that they “cannot be forced to attend the Assembly”, as the hearing began on Tuesday on their resignations, which they claimed was being “deliberately” delayed by the Speaker.

As the hearing began, the counsel for the rebel lawmakers, Mukul Rohatgi questioned, “When I don’t want to attend the assembly, can I be forced to do so?” adding that the resignations “cannot be mixed with disqualification”.

Rohatgi called it “an attempt to scuttle their resignations”. “The Speaker is trying to make a decision on both the issues-resignation and disqualification-at the same time,” he said.

“The role of the Speaker under Article 190 and 10th Schedule of Constitution is different. Therefore, the pendency of disqualification proceedings is not a bar to accept resignations,” he further added.

Rohatgi told the apex court that all 10 petitioners had given their resignations on July 10, and notice for disqualification proceedings was issued only against two of them as on that date.

10 rebel MLAs — seven from the Congress and three from the JD(S) — moved the Supreme Court alleging that they were being threatened and that the Assembly Speaker KR Ramesh was sitting on their resignation letters in violation of the Constitution.

Despite the court’s order to spell out his decision on the resignations, Karnataka Speaker KR Ramesh Kumar chose to reserve his decision and showed no interest in taking an urgent call on the matter.

Therefore, the court ordered status quo on the resignations by the rebel Karnataka lawmakers till the matter will be heard by the court today and also barred the Speaker from taking any decision on either resignation of the lawmakers or their disqualification till then.

Later, five more rebel MLAs moved the Supreme Court against the Speaker.

Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi said that five more legislators had given their resignations to the Speaker, which was yet again rejected. “Incompetent proceedings are inappropriate,” he argued.

The five legislators — 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.

On being asked by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi on the possible reason for disqualification petition against the Karnataka legislators, Rohatgi said: “the reason is for not being a disciplined soldier of the party, but for not attending meetings outside the House”.

The CJI said that the court cannot consider the decision on how the Speaker is to decide on resignation or disqualification. The court only has to see whether there is Constitutional obligation on the Speaker to decide disqualification or resignation one before the other, Gogoi added.

To this, the advocate argued that resignation does not require any inquiry unless the Speaker has credible material that there is coercion.

The Speaker had earlier argued that his constitutional duties and Assembly rules mandated him to verify whether the resignations tendered by the MLAs were voluntary or forced.

Read | Can’t take call on rebel MLAs’ resignations today, Karnataka Speaker tells SC

Rohatgi further said that there can several reasons why someone might decide to resign.

“They could be ill or sick of being a part of politics. Reasons for resignation are irrelevant,” he said while quoting judgements in such cases by the Kerala, Goa and Tamil Nadu high courts.

The 13-month-old coalition government is trying to save its face desperately after a total of 18 MLAs resigned from the ruling alliance – 13 from Congress and three from JD (S) by Saturday and two more, including one Independent on Monday.