In what is being interpreted as an interim order to deal with a specific situation, supreme sagacity was exhibited by the apex court on Friday.
A three-member bench (Coram: AK Sikri, SA Bobde, Ashok Bhushan, JJ) upheld the dignity of the office of Governor, but cut the incumbent in Bengaluru to size by slashing down to 4 pm on Saturday the 15-day window he had granted to the BJP’s BS Yeddyurappa to prove his majority on the floor of the newly formed legislative assembly in Karnataka.
The court rejected the contention of counsel for the controversially appointed chief minister that he was not getting adequate time for the floor test ~ a claim the Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) combine insisted was proof that dubious methods were being used to manipulate the seats the BJP needed to establish its majority in the House.
Their Lordships also directed that no representative of the Anglo-Indian community be nominated an MLA ~ or any such major decision taken ~ until the legitimacy of the government was proven ~ thus denying Yeddyurappa one “free” seat.
The court’s direction that an Interim Speaker be appointed for the floor-test put both sides in a pickle ~ a senior member would be selected for the job, meaning one seat fewer for his party. Since on paper the BJP has fewer numbers it might suffer, but would it run the risk of proceedings being conducted by the other camp.
Another sign of sick times. In brief, their Lordships cut short the shenanigans, insisted all parties put their money where their mouth is. Both sides claimed “victory”, but the court order made it clear why much face is on the line on Saturday.
There are indications of a more substantive order a few weeks hence perhaps by a Constitution bench. There are conflicting rulings in precedents available for shifty Governors to exploit to political advantage. All parties are now tasked with keeping their flock intact, but stronger regulations thwarting inducement are needed ~ to call it horse-trading incurs the wrath of equine enthusiasts.
Sadly this has become the judiciary’s job because neither the framers of the Constitution, nor our early lawmakers could ever have imagined the extent to which public life has deteriorated.
Shortcomings in anti-defection laws also need rectification ~ party whips cannot supersede conscience votes. And what does “first past the post” actually mean ~ a percentage of the vote-share or its often skewed translation into seats.
It is true that the apex court is now beset with problems from within and beyond. Yet the political class has completely betrayed the very people from whom they draw their power.
In common perception their Lordships are the sole hope for the survival of parliamentary democracy. A comprehensive judicial determination is anxiously awaited to save the system from carcinogenic practices that have corroded it.