Karnataka crisis: Wind in BJP sails

SC says rebel MLAs not to be compelled to take part in Assembly proceedings

New Delhi/ Bengaluru: The Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled that Constitutional principles should not receive an exhaustive enumeration by it unless inevitable and unavoidable to resolve the issues that may have arisen in any judicial proceeding.
A three-judge bench, headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, further ruled that the necessity, at this stage, is to ”maintain the constitutional balance and the conflicting and competing rights that have been canvassed before us.
”Such an interim exercise has become prudent in view of certain time frame exercise(s) that is in the offing in the Karnataka Legislative Assembly, particularly, the no-trust motion against the present government, which we are told is due for being taken up on 18th July, 2019.”
The apex court held that in these circumstances, ”we permit the Speaker to decide on the request for resignations by the 15 Members of the House within such time frame as he consider appropriate. ”We also take the view that in the present case the discretion of the Speaker while deciding the issue should not be fettered by any direction or observation of this Court.”
It also ruled that the Speaker should be left free to decide the issue in accordance with Article 190 read with Rule 202 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in Karnataka Legislative Assembly framed in exercise of the powers under Article 208 of the Constitution.
‘Win for rebels’ The order of the Speaker on the resignation issue, as and when passed, be placed before the Court, it said. ”We also make it clear that until further orders the 15 Members of the Assembly, ought not to be compelled to participate in the proceedings of the ongoing session of the House.”
The apex court also said that an option should be given to the MLAs that they can take part in the proceedings or to opt to remain out. In effect, the rebel MLAs will not be disqualified if they do not obey their party whip during the trust vote.
The bench also held that the larger question raised in the case on the role of Speaker could be answered at later stage but an interim order is required to maintain balance in the three wings of the Constitution.
On Tuesday, detailed arguments were presented by senior counsel Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the 15 rebel MLAs, Dr Abhishek Manu Singhvi for Speaker, and Dr Rajeev Dhawan for Karnataka Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy. The rebel MLAs had contended that the Indian National Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) coalition has lost majority. Speaker K R Ramesh Kumar, by keeping their resignations pending, is attempting to prolong a Government which has been reduced to a minority, the dissidents submitted. BJP hails verdict In Bengaluru,, the Speaker said he will go by the verdict of the apex court and convene the floor test on Thursday.
Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party demanded chief minister HD Kumaraswamy resign from his post immediately as his government had been reduced to a minority. BJP leader B S Yeddyurappa welcomed the apex court verdict as a, ”victory of the Constitution and democracy.” He said, ”Since it is an interim order, in the coming days the apex court will decide the powers and functions of the office of the Speaker.” Hectic parleys were in progress in the high-tech software capital of India after the verdict of the Supreme Court. Rebel MLAs indicated that they have no intention to attend the House on Thursday.
This would mean the coalition government may fall into minority as it will have a strength of just 101 MLAs in the 225-member house with BJP having 105 plus the support of two independent MLAs. Kumaraswamy was huddled in a long meeting with senior Congress leaders including government coordination committee chairman Siddaramaiah, KPCC President Dinesh Gundurao, Congress in-charge of political affairs in Karnataka K C Venugopal and others. Speaker Kumar will take up the confidence motion that will be called at 11 am on Thursday.
With the Supreme Court verdict that gave solace to the 15 dissident MLAs who have quit their seats, but their resignation letters yet to be accepted, not be forced to attend the trust vote on the floor of the Assembly Kumaraswamy may think twice before seeking the floor test.
Who stands where In the 225-member House, the Congress has a strength of 66 (excluding 13 rebel MLAs and Speaker), the JD(S) 34 (excluding 03 resigned), BJP 105, Independents-2, BSP-1 and one nominated member. (UNI)