The Election Commission on Thursday told the Supreme Court that it would defer the bye-elections to 15 of the 17 vacant Assembly constituencies in Karnataka until the court decides on petitions filed against the disqualification of the previous legislators from those seats, PTI reported. The former MLAs had sought to contest the bye-elections.

The poll panel’s counsel made the submission before a three-judge bench headed by Justice NV Ramana after it said it would hear the petitions filed by the 17 former MLAs completely and decide on it. Senior advocate Rakesh Dwivedi, appearing for the poll body, said: “Then I will ask the Election Commission to defer it for sometime.”

The bench said it would hear the case next on October 22.

The bye-elections for 15 of the 17 seats were scheduled to be held on October 21, and results were due on October 24. The dates for the other two seats had not been announced yet. The polls are crucial for the survival of the BS Yediyurappa-led Bharatiya Janata Party government in the state, as it needs to win at least eight of the 17 seats to stay in power. The party had come to power in July after 17 MLAs of the ruling Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) coalition had withdrawn support and were disqualified by then Speaker KR Ramesh Kumar.

Following their absence from the Assembly during the trust vote, three rebel Congress MLAs – R Shankar, Ramesh Jarkiholi and Mahesh Kumathahalli – were disqualified 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 of the Congress, and Janata Dal (Secular) legislators H Vishwanath, Narayana Gowda and Gopalaiah – were disqualified for the same period three days later.

On Wednesday, new Speaker Vishweshwar Hegde Kageri’s office told the Supreme Court while hearing the rebel MLAs’ petitions that a lawmaker’s right to resignation is a “democratic right”. Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for some of the disqualified MLAs, had said that the upcoming bye-polls should be stayed or deferred till the top court announces its verdict in the case.

The Election Commission had on September 23 told the Supreme Court that Kumar’s order disqualifying the legislators cannot deprive them of their right to contest bye-elections. The poll panel had added that bye-elections should not be stayed.

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