The Supreme Court on Friday ordered status quo on the resignations by rebel legislators from the ruling coalition in Karnataka and disqualification proceedings against them till it decides larger constitutional questions in the matter, Bar and Bench reported. The matter will be heard again on Tuesday, according to ANI. The resignations have brought the state government to the edge of collapse.
“One important question is whether constitutional court can issue direction to speaker to decide on resignations,” the judges said. “Having regard to the issues, we are of the view that matter needs to be considered.”
As proceedings started in the court, senior lawyer Mukul Rohatgi said Speaker KR Ramesh Kumar’s failure to decide on the resignations was a “brazen case of contempt”. The speaker was “riding on two horses”, Rohatgi added.
On Thursday, the court had told 10 of the 16 disgruntled MLAs who filed the petition in the court to meet Kumar and instructed the speaker to take a decision by the end of the day. However, Kumar said he needed time to scrutinise and get clarity on the resignation letters before accepting them. Earlier in the evening, the court had rejected his petition seeking more time to peruse the resignation letters.
Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who represented Speaker Ramesh Kumar, claimed the 10 MLAs had resigned with the aim of avoiding disqualification from the Assembly. “By way of 1974 amendment, it has been made clear that resignations cannot be merely accepted and inquiry has to be conducted to ascertain if resignations are genuine,” he told the top court.
Of the 16 legislators who have stepped down since the start of the month, two resigned after disqualification proceedings commenced and eight sent resignations before the disqualification proceedings but did not appear in person with their letters, the Congress leader added. He referred to a judgement according to which courts cannot direct speakers to decide on disqualification proceedings in a particular manner and within a time frame, Bar and Bench reported.
Advocate Rajeev Dhavan, who appeared in court on behalf of Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy, said the legislators’ claim for urgent hearing was based on the argument that the state government was in minority.
“On what basis is Supreme Court being asked to interfere?” he asked. “That this government is in minority, there is maladministration. So they say ‘please assist us since this government has failed’. Not a word about speaker’s actions.”
Dhavan said the speaker was responsible for ensuring that the resignations were voluntary and genuine. “This is an overtly political petition,” Live Law quoted him as saying.
“Speaker has said that he will decide on the resignations at the earliest,” the lawyer added. “I know of only one case – Haryana Assembly case – wherein HC gave Speaker four months to decide.”