Assembly elections

Karnataka: SC refuses to stay Yeddyurappa swearing in, asks for letter claiming majority

The decision was taken after a dramatic, late-night hearing that went on for more than 3 hours.

Following a dramatic late-night hearing, the Supreme Court in the early hours of Thursday refused to order a stay on the swearing-in ceremony of Bharatiya Janata Party leader BS Yeddyurappa, who staked claim to forming the government in Karnataka. But the court also said that it would continue hearing a petition against the governor’s decision to invite Yeddyurappa to form the government, seemingly without the numbers to do so.

The Supreme Court ordered the Attorney General to furnish the letter in which Yeddyurappa told the Governor that he had the numbers for a majority in the Karnataka house, and said that the case would be taken up next at 10:30 am on Friday. Additionally, if Yeddyurappa’s swearing-in proceeds, it would still be subject to the final outcome in the legal matter.

Earlier, the Congress and Janata Dal (Secular) moved the Supreme Court registrar for an urgent hearing on Wednesday night, after the governor, Vajubhai Vala, waited till late in the evening to announce that he had invited the BJP to form the government. Plans were being made for the BJP’s chief ministerial candidate BS Yeddyurappa to take oath at 9 am on Thursday. The BJP was subsequently set to be given 15 days to form the government. Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra assigned the petition against the Karnataka governor’s decision to invite the Bharatiya Janata Party to form government to a bench of three Supreme Court judges – Justices AK Sikri, A Bobde and Ashok Bhushan.

5:37 am: The Supreme Court verdict says that it will not stay the swearing-in ceremony, but if that does indeed go ahead, it will be subject to the final decision regarding the current petition.

5:30 am: The court has issued notice to the Centre and Karnataka, and asked the attorney general to furnish the letter from Yeddyurappa by 2 pm on Thursday. The hearing will continue on Friday morning.

5:26 am: Supreme Court, in order, says it will not stay the swearing-in ceremony of Yeddyurappa, but says the formation of government will be subject to the contents of the letter he sent to the Governor, in which he said he would have a majority.

Abhishek Manu Singhvi, representing the Congress-JD(S) combine, argued that until the controversy over who should have been invited is settled, there should be no new government, there must be a status quo. Effectively, Singvhi was asking for a stay on Yeddyurappa’s swearing-in ceremony which had been scheduled for 9 am on Thursday.

2:09 am: Speaking outside the court before going in, Rohatgi said that the governor has the discretion to call largest party and he has done so. If single-largest party is not able to form the government, other parties will be called, but that can only be decided on the floor of the assembly. He insisted that the matter is different from Goa, where the governor invited a post-poll coalition rather than the single-largest party, saying in that case the single-largest party Congress had not staked a claim to forming the government.

2:07 am: The hearing has begun in Court No 6, before Justices AK Sikri, A Bobde and Ashok Bhushan. In addition to Singhvi and Mehta, former attorney general Mukul Rohatgi will also be arguing, appearing for BJP Members of Legislative Assembly.

1:57 am: Congress leader and senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi will be representing the Congress and the JD(S), while Tushar Mehta, the additional solicitor general, will represent the Centre.

1:56 am: The Congress-JD(S) petition claims that decision of the Governor is completely tainted with arbitrariness, malafide, partisanship and has been taken in an extremely hasty manner to pre-empt the coalition from forming the Government, and arguest that it is violative of Article 14 of the Constitution which guarantees equality before law.

Read Sruthisagar Yamunan’s piece explaining why the Supreme Court needs to step in and question the Governor’s decision to invite the BJP. “The Karnataka governor’s decision seems to be based on the assumption that Yeddyurappa has the best chance of forming a stable government. This assumption does not hold because another formation has already shown majority by providing the letter of support of all its legislators.”

1:40 am: The Supreme Court registrar took the matter to the Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra around midnight. Misra then assigned the case to a three judge bench of Justices AK Sikri, A Bobde and Ashok Bhushan, who will hear the matter at 1:45.

After a day and a half of considering the claims from both the BJP and the Congress-JD(S) combine, Governor Vajubhai Vala decided in the evening on Wednesday to invite the BJP to form the government. This prompted the Congress to move the Supreme Court registrar against the governor’s decision, saying it broke with precedent set in recent elections.

The late-night events come after election results from the Karnataka polls threw up an inconclusive verdict, with the BJP getting the most seats but not enough to form government by itself. Following this, the Congress and the JD(S) which together had enough seats to cross the halfway mark, staked a claim to forming the government. But the BJP also approached the governor and staked its own claim.

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