Karnataka Assembly Speaker on Tuesday requested the Supreme Court to vacate its July 12 status quo order to enable him to decide both the resignation and disqualification proceedings together by tomorrow.
The apex court, hearing a plea by 10 rebel Karnataka MLAs, questioned Speaker KR Ramesh Kumar on what stopped him from deciding whether to accept or reject the resignations tendered by the legislators of the Congress-JD(S) coalition on July 6.
Seeking a clear response from the Speaker’s counsel, Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi asked, “You were silent on the resignations till the MLAs came to the Supreme Court… Why?”
Singhvi said in response that the Speaker filed an affidavit in the apex court explaining what had happened.
Chief Justice Gogoi shot back asking why wasn’t a decision taken when the MLAs went to the Speaker with their resignations, to which Singhvi replied that it was a written communication, and the Speaker was not available on that day.
Referring to the Karnataka Speaker, the Chief Justice further said that he cannot question the jurisdictional power of this court.
“You cannot question our jurisdictional powers when we, to your benefit, had ordered a floor test, appointed a pro tem Speaker in a midnight hearing. The exercise of jurisdiction of our powers depends only on self-restraint. Are you trying to restrict the power of the Supreme Court,” the bench said.
However, the advocate argued that the Speaker has to be allowed to decide.
“There is mutual constitutional respect. Ultimately the court is the master because judicial review of the decision can be made. But how can the court pass a direction at an interim stage? The speaker has to be allowed to decide,” Singhvi said.
The CJI had asked the Speaker to decide on the resignations in one week and then decide on the disqualifications.
To this, the Speaker’s counsel said, “The court cannot direct the Speaker to take a decision like this. The Speaker has sought time to decide. According to Karnataka assembly rules, the resignation has to be in person. Disqualification and resignation cannot be unscrambled. Have to be decided by a common order”.
He further asked the court to allow the Speaker to take a decision then take a judicial review of the final decision. “They are saying don’t allow the Speaker to take a decision. It’s been less than one week,” he further said in his argument.
Singhvi further said that there was no presentation of resignations by legislators till July 11.
“They (legislators) went to Mumbai and Supreme Court but did not go to the Speaker. So, all resignations are subsequent to disqualification. The relevant course for the court is to let Speaker take a decision and then test him,” he said.
He further argued that the court cannot take away the Speaker’s vested right by Article 32 of the Constitution, adding that the case was not an extreme one where the court should intervene.
Dr Rajeev Dhawan, a senior lawyer appearing for Karnataka Chief Minister said that it was the “motive” that is important here. “11 people are hunting in a pack. They flew to Mumbai when they could have met the Speaker.”
He further said that the Supreme Court must not entertain such kind of petition under Article 32 of Constitution.
The Supreme Court will pass the order in the case tomorrow at 10:30 am.
Earlier in the hearing, the counsel for the rebel lawmakers, Mukul Rohatgi, argued before the Supreme Court that they “cannot be forced to attend the Assembly”, adding that the resignations “cannot be mixed with disqualification”.
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 claiming that he needs more time to verify whether the resignations tendered by the MLAs were voluntary or forced.
Following this, 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.
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) and two Independents.