The Supreme Court on Friday ordered status quo on the resignations by rebel Karnataka lawmakers till the matter will be heard by the court on Tuesday and also barred the Karnataka Speaker from taking any decision on either resignation of the lawmakers or their disqualification till then.
The court was hearing a petition of 10 rebel MLAs, who have alleged 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 of the 16 MLAs by yesterday night, the Speaker chose to reserve his decision and showed no interest in taking an urgent call on the matter.
Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the rebel MLAs, submitted before the apex court that the Speaker is answerable to the court, except under certain circumstances. “He may not respond under certain sections and provisions, he is an entitled exemption,” the court was told.
Rohatgi said that the issue is the matter of resignations and has nothing to do with the Speaker’s powers inside the house.
Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, the counsel for Speaker KR Ramesh Kumar, referred to the provisions and said that he holds a constitutional post. “Speaker was not served copy of the petition; plea was controverted by rebel MLAs,” he argued.
The Speaker is “duty-bound and empowered to decide on the disqualification of MLAs first”, the lawyer told the bench headed by CJI Ranjan Gogoi.
Singhvi further said that the Speaker is a very senior member of the Assembly and he knows Constitutional law, adding that he “cannot be maligned and lampooned like this”.
Meanwhile, the rebel lawmakers told the court that the Speaker had questioned their move to approach the Supreme Court and claimed that he said “go to hell” to them in front of media.
The MLAs further asked the bench to give the Speaker one or two days to decide on the resignations adding that a contempt notice should be issued against him if he does not decide by the stipulated time.
Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy, who was also present in the court, said that the “order on resignations was passed by Supreme Court without issuing a notice to the Speaker”.
The Congress-JD(S) coalition government in Karnataka is teetering on the brink of collapse with 18 lawmakers submitting their resignations.
Till Wednesday, 13 Congress, 3 JD(S) and two independent MLAs have submitted their resignations to the Assembly Speaker KR Ramesh Kumar.
The Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) coalition faces the threat of losing its majority in the Assembly if the resignations are accepted as its current tally is 116 (Congress 78, JD(S) 37 and BSP one), besides the Speaker in the 224 member House.