Ten of the 17 Congress and Janata Dal(S) members of the Karnataka Assembly, who defected to the BJP last July and brought down the HD Kumaraswamy government, were administered the oath of office and secrecy as ministers by Governor Vajubhai Vala on Friday in the presence of Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa at the Raj Bavan in Bengaluru and brought the curtain down on the sevenmonth drama. At the nearby Kumara Krupa government guest house, 10 brand new luxury cars were lined up for the new ministers to ride home.
The 10th Schedule of the Constitution, popularly known as the anti-defection law, was made to stand on its head. When the 17 MLAs submitted their resignation from the Assembly with a view to defecting to the BJP under what has come to be known as “the Karnataka plan,” the then Speaker of the Assembly disqualified them and barred them from re-contesting election to the Asssembly till the end of its current term in the spirit of the 10th Schedule.
The Supreme Court in its wisdom upheld the Speaker’s order disqualifying the defecting MLAs but struck down the ban on their re-contesting election to the current Assembly. The BJP fielded 15 of the defectors in the resultant by-elections in December last. Twelve of them won and 11 staked their claim to the promised cabinet berths. Union Home Minister Amit Shah allowed Yediyurappa to induct only 10 although the Chief Minister had kept 16 ministerial posts vacant to accommodate defectors while forming his second government last July.
While adjudicating disqualification of MLAs in the Manipur Assembly last month, the Supreme Court recommended that Parliament should reconsider whether disqualification petitions should be entrusted to the Speaker as a quasi-judicial authority when the Speaker continues to belong to a particular party. The Supreme Court was of the opinion that Parliament should consider a constitutional amendment to substitute the Speaker of the Lok Sabha and State Legislative Assemblies with a permanent tribunal headed by a retired judge of the Supreme Court or a retired Chief Justice of a High Court or some other independent mechanism.
It directed Speakers of Parliament and Legislative Assemblies to decide on disqualification of lawmakers in three months. Recognising the importance of the subject, chairman Venkaiah Naidu wanted all parties to come together and suggest an alternative scheme to give teeth to the Constitution (Fifty-second Amendment) Act, 1985. The Speaker is the ultimate interpreter relating to the functioning of the House and is the symbol of the House. The House represents the nation. Let no one tinker with the integrity of the nation.