Karnataka crisis: CM Kumaraswamy to seek trust vote

Karnataka Assembly monsoon session set to begin today amid political turmoil
Karnataka Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy arrives at Vidhana Soudha, in Bengaluru, on Thursday. Photo: PTI
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New Delhi: Karnataka CM H D Kumaraswamy on Friday said he would seek a trust vote and asked Speaker K R Ramesh Kumar to fix the time for it as the monsoon session of the legislature began here.

The embattled JD(S) leader also said he was ready for everything and that he was not here to cling to power.

Kumaraswamy made the plea seeking the trust vote in the Assembly, which met here amid a flurry of political developments that have pushed his already wobbly government on the brink of collapse.

Resort politics returns

It's resort politics time again as all three key players have herded their MLAs in luxury stays to keep their flock intact amid the continuing imbroglio triggered by the legislators' resignation saga.

The JDS has chosen the serene surroundings of Nandi Hill on the city outskirts while its partner Congress opted for a star hotel in Bengaluru, sources in the parties said.

The MLAs of the BJP are staying in the cozy comforts of a resort near Yelahanka.

While several rebel MLAs have been staying in a Mumbai hotel since their resignations last Saturday, the Congress and JDS are apparently keen to avoid any further erosion in their strength.

SC asks Speaker to maintain status quo

Karnataka Assembly monsoon session set to begin today amid political turmoil
Karnataka Assembly Speaker Ramesh Kumar arrives at Vidhana Soudha in Bengaluru, on Thursday. Photo: PTI

The Supreme Court asked the Karnataka Assembly speaker on Friday to maintain status quo on the resignation and disqualification of 10 rebel Congress and JD(S) MLAs.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi posted the matter pertaining to the Karnataka political crisis for further hearing on July 16.

The bench, also comprising justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose, specifically mentioned in the order that Karnataka Assembly Speaker K R Ramesh Kumar would neither decide the issue of resignation nor that of the disqualification of the rebel MLAs to enable the court to decide the larger issues raised during the hearing of the matter.

The bench noted in its order that the issue of maintainability of the rebel MLAs' petition under Article 32 of the Constitution was raised by the speaker and Karnataka Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy.

Further, the bench noted that senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the rebel MLAs, had countered the speaker's submission that the disqualification plea of the ruling coalition in the southern state had to be decided before taking up the issue of resignation of the lawmakers.

The bench said taking all these aspects and the incomplete facts before it into consideration, there was a need for further hearing.

"In view of the weighty issue that have arisen, we are of the view that the matter be considered by us on Tuesday. We are of the view that the status quo as of today with regard to the prevailing situation be maintained. Neither the issue of resignation nor that of disqualification be decided till Tuesday," the bench said.

Karnataka Assembly monsoon session set to begin today amid political turmoil
Karnataka BJP State President B S Yeduyurappa with his party MLAs sits in front Gandhi statue for a protest to demand the resignation of Karnataka Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy at Vidhana Soudha, in Bengaluru, on Wednesday. Photo: AFP

Blame game in Supreme Court

Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy alleged in the SC that the top court's order on the resignations of the rebel Congress-JD(S) MLAs was passed without issuing a notice to the state Assembly speaker.

Senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan, appearing for Kumaraswamy, told a bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi that the pleas of the MLAs should not have been entertained.

He further said the MLAs, in their plea, had levelled corruption allegations against the state government and still the order concerned was passed without hearing him.

Dhavan also told the bench that one of the rebel MLAs was involved in a Ponzy scheme for which "we (state government) are being accused of".

He said the speaker had the responsibility to satisfy himself as regards whether the resignations were voluntary.

Dhavan also said when the apex court order was passed without hearing the other side, what could the speaker do in such a situation.

Senior advocate AM Singhvi, appearing for Karnataka Assembly Speaker K R Ramesh Kumar, told the bench that his client was not served the copy of the petition and the plea was controverted by the rebel legislators.

He also said disqualification proceedings had been filed against eight of the rebel MLAs.

"The speaker is duty-bound and empowered to decide on disqualification of MLAs first," Singhvi told the bench.

At the outset, the bench had asked him whether the speaker had the power to challenge its order, while hearing a plea moved by Kumar against the top court order asking him to take a decision on the resignations of 10 rebel MLAs on Thursday.

Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the MLAs, said the speaker could be given one or two days to decide on the resignations and if he did not take a decision on the matter within that time-frame, a contempt notice could be issued against him.

Rohatgi said the speaker had questioned the move of the rebel MLAs to approach the apex court and asked them to "go to hell" in front of the media.

"The idea behind keeping the resignation issue alive and pending is to bind the MLAs to the party whip," he submitted.

The lawmakers also told the bench that the speaker had not taken any decision on their resignations, adding that he had no immunity with regard to the acceptance of the papers.

However, Singhvi said the speaker was constitutionally obligated to decide on a plea for disqualification of the rebel MLAs.

"The speaker is a very senior member of the Assembly. He knows constitutional law. He cannot be maligned, lampooned like this," he told the bench.

SC asks if speaker has power to challenge its order

The SC also asked whether the Speaker had the power to challenge its order, while hearing his plea against the top court order asking him to take a decision on the resignation of 10 rebel MLAs on Thursday.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi was hearing a bunch of pleas moved by the speaker and the rebel Congress and JD(S) MLAs.

The MLAs told the bench on Friday that the speaker had not taken any decision on their decision to step down, adding that he had no immunity with regard to the acceptance of the resignations.

However, the counsel appearing for the Karnataka Assembly speaker said he was constitutionally obligated to decide on a plea for disqualification of the rebel MLAs.

The Kumaraswamy-led Congress-JD(S) coalition government is on a sticky wicket following resignation of 16 of its MLAs.

The BJP has even petitioned Governor Vajubhai Vala seeking his intervention.

With 16 resignations yet to be accepted, all eyes are now on the Speaker, who has said he will take a decision only after examining whether they are "voluntary and genuine."

The apex court had asked the Speaker to decide "forthwith" about the resignation of 10 rebel MLAs, allowing them to meet him at 6 pm on Thursday.

Of the 16 MLAs who have resigned, 13 are from the Congress and three from the JD(S).

The coalition's strength in the House is 116 (Congress 78, JD(S) 37 and BSP one), besides the speaker.

With the support of the two independents, who resigned from the ministry on Monday, the opposition BJP has 107 MLAs in the 224-member House, where the halfway mark is 113.

If the resignations of the 16 MLAs are accepted, the ruling coalition's tally will be reduced to 100.

(With inputs from PTI.)

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