The Supreme Court on Friday reserved its judgement on a plea filed by 17 Congress and Janata Dal (Secular) MLAs from Karnataka challenging their disqualification from the state Assembly after they resigned as legislators in July, Bar and Bench reported. The MLAs have urged the Supreme Court to allow them to contest bye-elections, which will be held in December.

Former Karnataka Speaker KR Ramesh Kumar had rejected their resignations. However, the disgruntled MLAs did not return to the Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) fold, and the government of HD Kumaraswamy collapsed following a trust vote in the Assembly. Following this, Bharatiya Janata Party state chief BS Yediyurappa was elected the chief minister. In September, the chief minister had said that the disqualified MLAs will be given tickets “if they want”.

Senior lawyer Kapil Sibal, arguing against the petition, said it should be sent to a Constitution bench of the Supreme Court. “What is the meaning of all this if a legislator is disqualified but he is allowed to fight the election?” Sibal asked. “If that is allowed it gives impetus to such conduct as in this case.” Sibal said that while the elections can be held, they should not be postponed merely because disqualified legislators want to contest.

“Eleven people decide to put in their resignation on the same day,” Sibal said. “When a Speaker comes to know of it, how would he react? Any Speaker would be put on notice and would naturally inquire into why 11 MLAs are resigning suddenly.”

Sibal said that the rebel MLAs went to Karnataka Governor Vajubhai Vala the day after resigning, and wondered why they did so. He argued that since the right to be elected is a statutory right, the MLAs cannot approach the Supreme Court asking for permission to contest the bye-polls.

Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, representing the petitioners, said that proceedings related to disqualification and resignation are “distinct and different”. When a Speaker considers the resignation letters submitted by legislators, the motive for resignation is irrelevant, he argued.

Advocate Aryama Sundaram, also representing the petitioners, said that the MLAs cannot be disqualified for not attending the legislative party meetings, as there had been no whip from the Congress and Janata Dal (Secular) to attend them. “Am I expected to attend the House after I tendered my resignation?” he asked.

Following the arguments, the Supreme Court reserved the judgement in the case.

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