The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the rebel Karnataka legislators to communicate their urgency to the court registrar to list their pleas challenging former Speaker KR Ramesh Kumar’s decision to disqualify them from the state Assembly last month, The Hindu reported. Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the rebel MLAs, told the court that the pleas should be listed on August 19 for hearing.
Kumar had disqualified three rebel Congress MLAs – R Shankar, Ramesh Jarkiholi and Mahesh Kumathahalli – on July 25 till the end of the Assembly’s term in 2023. The rest – Pratap Gouda Patil, BC Patil, Shivaram Hebbar, ST Somashekar, Byrathi Basavaraj, Anand Singh, Roshan Baig, K Sudhakar, Muniratna, MTB Nagaraj and Shrimant Patil, and JD(S) legislators H Vishwanath, Narayan Gowda and Gopalaiah – were disqualified on July 28. It brought down the strength of the House to 207.
The bench led by Justice Arun Mishra passed the orders. Several of these MLAs, including Pratapgouda Patil and Vishwanath, have approached the Supreme Court both jointly and separately.
Their petitions named Kumar, the State of Karnataka, Congress Legislature Party leader Siddaramaiah and State Congress President Dinesh Gundurao and the former Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy as respondents.
“The petitioners have a fundamental right under Article 19 to carry on any trade, business and profession,” their MLAs argued. “Their right to resign from the post of MLA and carry on any vocation of their choice, including public service, cannot be denied by the Respondent Speaker by a completely illegal and unconstitutional order. The action of the Speaker is thus in violation of the fundamental rights of the Petitioners guaranteed under Articles 19 and 21,” it said.
The rebel legislators have requested the court to ask for records of their disqualification proceedings and Kumar’s deliberations on their resignation letters. They have also urged the Supreme Court to issue an appropriate writ, order or direction, to quash and set aside Kumar’s disqualification order. They claimed to have tendered their resignations on July 6, six days before the Congress filed disqualification petitions against them.
The MLAs argued that the actions of the former Speaker were wholly arbitrary and unreasonable and in violation of Article 14 of the Constitution. They accused him of adopting a “pick-and-choose” policy.
They said Kumar also did not comply when the Supreme Court, on July 11, asked him to decide the resignations on the same day. The floor test, which was supposed to be held on July 18, was unduly delayed. It finally took place on July 23.
The legislators’ resignations led to the collapse of the 14-month old Janata Dal (Secular)-Congress government. The coalition had come to power in May 2018, when Karnataka ended up with a fractured mandate after the Assembly elections. In the trust vote, the alliance received support from 99 MLAs while 105 legislators voted against it.
If the Supreme Court upholds Kumar’s verdict, the MLAs’ hopes of fighting bye-elections and becoming ministers in the BS Yediyurappa-led government will be dashed. Yediyurappa can induct a minimum of 15 and a maximum of 33 ministers in the state Cabinet, excluding the post of deputy chief minister.