Karnataka crisis: SC rules speaker is the boss, but rebel MLAs can skip Assembly

Karnataka crisis: SC says speaker is the boss, but rebel MLAs can skip Assembly
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New Delhi/Bengaluru: In a crucial order, the Supreme Court on Wednesday made it clear that it will not force the Karnataka speaker to accept the resignations of the rebel Congress and Janata Dal (Secular) MLAs. The apex court stated that the “speaker cannot be forced to take a decision within a time frame."

A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi further said Karnataka Assembly Speaker K R Ramesh Kumar was free to decide on the resignations of the rebel legislators within the time-frame decided by him. The court also said the speaker's decision be put before it.

The bench, also comprising justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose, said the speaker's discretion in deciding the resignation issue of the 15 MLAs should not be fettered by the court's directions or observations and he should be free to decide the issue.

The bench, while pronouncing the order, said it was necessary to maintain the constitutional balance in the matter.

The court said other issues raised in the matter would be decided at a later stage.

The court directed that the 15 rebel Congress-JD(S) MLAs ought not to be compelled to take part in Assembly proceedings or the trust vote to be held on Thursday.

Ramesh Kumar welcomed the Supreme Court decision putting the onus on him to decide on the resignations of rebel MLAs, and said he would conduct himself responsibly in accordance with the principles of the Constitution.

"With utmost humility I welcome and respect the Supreme Court decision," Kumar said soon after the apex court pronounced its order on the issue of resignations of the lawmakers that has pushed the state into political turmoil.

"The SC has put extra burden on me, I will conduct myself responsibly in accordance with constitutional principle," he told reporters in Kolar, his home town.

Moral victory for rebel MLAs: Yeddyurappa

Karnataka BJP chief B S Yeddyurappa welcomed the SC order, asserting that it was a "moral victory" for the rebel MLAs.

Yeddyurappa underlined that the political parties cannot issue a whip to the 15 rebel lawmakers, who have resigned their Assembly membership, and they cannot be compelled to attend the House proceedings.

The apex court gave its verdict keeping all the facts about Karnataka in mind, he said.

Against this backdrop, Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy will have to resign on Thursday when he will face the confidence vote in the Assembly, Yeddyurappa told reporters here.

"When there is no majority, he (chief minister) will automatically resign tomorrow," he said.

The BJP president also emphasised that the speaker has been directed to take a decision at the earliest and submit his order to the Supreme Court.

"I welcome the Supreme Court decision. It is a victory of the Constitution and democracy. It is a moral victory for rebel MLAs.

"It is only an interim order and in the future, the SC will decide the power of the speaker. It will set a new trend in the parliamentary democracy," Yeddyurappa said.

The court decision capped high-voltage arguments Tuesday during which Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy said the rebel MLAs are "hunting in a pack", alleging their motive is to bring down his government while the dissidents submitted the speaker wants to prop up a government which has lost majority.

The Speaker on his part said that he, being a constitutional functionary, cannot be directed to first decide on the resignations of the MLAs and thereafter the pending disqualification applications.

The chief minister is due to face a trust vote on Thursday and his government could collapse ahead of it if the resignations of the rebel MLAs are accepted by the Speaker.

The ruling coalition's strength in the House is 117-- Congress 78, JD(S) 37, BSP 1, and nominated 1, besides the Speaker.

With the support of the two independents who have withdrawn support, the opposition BJP has 107 MLAs in the 225-member House, including the nominated MLA and Speaker.

If the resignations of the 16 MLAs are accepted, the ruling coalition's tally will be reduced to 101. The nominated member too has a right to vote.

In a bid to keep their flock together ahead of the floor test, the Congress, BJP and JD(S) have shifted their MLAs to resorts.

The Congress Tuesday shifted its MLAs from a hotel in the city to a resort on the outskirts, amid fears that some more legislators may resign.

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