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Karnataka political crisis: SC to deliver order Wednesday on pleas of rebel MLAs
 
New Delhi: The Supreme Court will deliver on Wednesday its crucial order on pleas of 15 rebel Congress-JD (S) MLAs seeking a direction for Karnataka Assembly Speaker K R Ramesh Kumar to accept their resignations, which may seal the fate of 14-month-old H D Kumaraswamy government. The apex court reserved its order after high-voltage arguments in which Kumaraswamy and the Speaker questioned its jurisdiction on entertaining the rebel MLAs, who alleged that they are being forced to act in a particular manner so as to save the coalition government that has lost majority.

Kumaraswamy and Kumar contended that the court cannot enter into the Speaker''s domain by asking him first to decide on the resignations of these MLAs and thereafter the applications seeking their disqualification. However, a bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said it was not restraining the Speaker from deciding the disqualification but was only asking him to ascertain whether they voluntarily resigned. The bench, also comprising Justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose, also said that the apex court had given a "very high status" to the Speaker while interpreting the anti-defection law decades ago and "probably that needs a re-look after so many years".

The bench said there are rival submissions on the issue of resignation and disqualification of MLAs and "we will do the required balancing". The court also questioned the contentions of the Speaker that the issue of disqualification has to be decided first by asking him what was he doing till July 10 when the MLAs had resigned on July 6 itself. "On July 6, they (rebel MLAs) say they had given their resignations. The Speaker did not do anything until the Supreme Court''s order (of July 11)," the bench said. "What is the scope of the pending disqualification?" it added. "Pursuant to the court''s order, they appeared physically before the Speaker.

Then why he (Speaker) did not decide it? He (Speaker) is saying that he will take time in deciding this. What does he mean by this?," the bench asked. Senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan, appearing for Kumaraswamy, said that these rebel MLAs are "hunting in a pack" and the Speaker cannot "turn a blind eye" to it since their motive is to bring down the government. "This is not the Speaker versus the court. This is between the Chief Minister and somebody who wants to become the Chief Minister and bring down this government," he said, while urging the court to vacate its two interim orders asking the Speaker to decide the resignations, and maintain a status quo. Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for rebel MLAs, said the Speaker is acting in a "partisan" and "mala fide" manner by not accepting their resignations and he has "frustrated" the fundamental rights of these lawmakers to resign.

He said as per constitutional rules, Speaker has to take an "immediate" decision on resignations and by not doing this, the Speaker is "flouting the rules". "Here is a government which has lost majority in the House and here is a Speaker who wants to prop this government," Rohatgi said, adding that resignation is different from disqualifications proceedings, which is akin to a time taking "mini-trial". He said the whole design not to accept resignations and keep the disqualification issue pending is for making the ruling coalition issue a whip to their MLAs to act in a particular manner when the confidence motion is put to vote on July 18 as any contrary action would invite disqualification.

Senior advocate A M Singhvi, appearing for the Speaker, said disqualification pleas against the MLAs were filed prior to their resignations on July 11 when they physically appeared before Speaker. "It is a common ground that 11 out of these 15 MLAs have handed over their resignations physically to the Speaker on July 11," he said, adding that, "resignation cannot be a ground to frustrate the disqualification proceedings". However, when Singhvi was making the submissions that the MLAs had earlier not made their physical appearance before the Speaker, the bench asked, "What stopped you (Speaker) from taking the decision when these MLAs physically appeared before you on July 11 after this court passed the order".

"What stopped you (Speaker) to say whether the resignations were voluntary or not?", the bench asked the senior advocate, who said the "Speaker was taking a holistic view before deciding the resignations". Singhvi said that there is a one-page affidavit of the Speaker seeking modification of its interim order by which he was asked to maintain status quo so that he can decide the issue of resignation of these MLAs. While he was making this submissions, the bench said, "Very well. You decide the resignation at the earliest and then decide the disqualification."

Singhvi said the apex court does not have such jurisdiction to ask the Speaker to act in a particular manner or to decide the issue of resignation in a time-bound manner. He also submitted that the Speaker can take decision on both the issues -- disqualification and resignation -- if asked by Wednesday. The day''s hearing concluded after Rohatgi asked the bench to pass a direction to continue with its interim order directing the Speaker to maintain status quo on the issue of resignations and disqualification of the MLAs. He also asked the bench that if the House assembles for business the 15 rebel MLAs be exempted from appearing on the basis of the whip of the ruling coalition.


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