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Speaker vs rebel MLAs: SC gives ‘balanced’ verdict on Karnataka crisis

Following the Supreme Court’s order on floor test, BJP President BS Yeddyurappa called for Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy’s resignation tomorrow.

Sheji S Edathara | New Delhi |

The Supreme Court on Wednesday pronounced a rather balanced order in the Karnataka crisis issue.

On one hand, the apex court said that the Karnataka Speaker “cannot be forced to take a decision” on the resignation of 15 rebel MLAs “within a time frame”. While on the other, the court said that the rebel MLAs cannot be compelled to participate in the trust vote on Thursday.

Amid a deepening crisis in the Karnataka Congress-JD(S) coalition government, the Supreme Court, in an interim order, said that Speaker KR Ramesh Kumar was free to decide on resignations of the MLAs.

Kumar welcomed the verdict and said that he will try to live up to the confidence of the Supreme Court put in him.

“I will take a decision that in no way will go contrary to the Constitution, the Court and the Lokpal.”

15 rebel MLAs had 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.

If the resignations are accepted, the coalition’s 118 members will come down to 100 and the majority mark will drop from 113 to 105. The BJP has 105 members and the support of the two Independents, which would take its tally to 107.

In an advantage for the rebel lawmakers, the court said that the Kumaraswamy government cannot compel the MLAs to participate in the Trust motion on July 18.

The MLAs said that they honour the Supreme Court’s verdict. “We all are together. We stand by our decision. There is no question of going to the Assembly,” they were quoted as saying by ANI.

Following the Supreme Court’s order on floor test, BJP President BS Yeddyurappa called for Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy’s resignation tomorrow.

“He has lost his mandate. Certainly, the government will not last because they do not have the numbers.”

Speaking on the order on resignations, Yeddyurappa said, “I welcome SC’s decision, it’s the victory of the Constitution and democracy… a moral victory for rebel MLAs. It is only an interim order; SC will decide powers of the Speaker in future”.

Mukul Rohatgi, a senior advocate representing Karnataka rebel lawmakers, told media that the court has said that the matter will be fully thrashed out at a later date.

BJP leader GVL Narasimha Rao proposed that the Supreme Court in its final judgement must create timelines for Speakers to decide a matter, be it Assembly or Parliament. “If required we’ll look at the need for amending the Act so that Speakers can’t go by their own whims and fancies.”

Congress leader DK Shivakumar hailed the verdict as a “landmark judgement that has given strength to the democratic process”.

“Some BJP friends are trying to misguide that whip is not valid but the party can issue a whip and take the necessary action as per anti-defection law,” he said.

Arguments raged in the Supreme Court on Tuesday with the rebel MLAs and the Speaker presenting their views on the resignations.

The Speaker had requested the Supreme Court to vacate its July 12 status quo order to enable him to decide both the resignation and disqualification proceedings together.

The counsel for the rebel lawmakers, Mukul Rohatgi, argued before the court that they “cannot be forced to attend the Assembly”, adding that the resignations “cannot be mixed with disqualification”.