NEW DELHI: In a major blow to the Congress-JD(S) combine, the Supreme Court on Saturday rejected its plea challenging the appointment of KG Bopaiah as the Protem Speaker and directed the latter to conduct the crucial floor test in the Karnataka Legislative Assembly this evening.
The three-member bench of the top court also directed that the proceedings of the floor test should be telecast live to prevent any ambiguity.
— ANI (@ANI) May 19, 2018
Rejecting the Congress-Janata Dal-Secular petition challenging KG Bopaiah's appointment as Protem Speaker by Governor Vajubhai Vala, the top court bench said, ''If you (Congress) want us to probe Protem Speaker's role, the floor test will have to be delayed.''
The court also noted that there have been several instances in the past where junior MLAs have been appointed Protem speakers.
The bench said that it can't quash the appointment of the Protem Speaker without hearing KG Bopaih and, if that has to be done, it would delay the floor test in the assembly.
''We can't order the Governor to appoint another Protem Speaker,'' the bench said, while adding that it will also not lay down how MLAs should vote during the floor test.
Despite facing a setback, the Congress welcomed the apex court ruling.
''Most important objective was to establish transparency. Since the statement has come from ASG that live feed of proceedings would be given, we hope and trust there would be fairness. I have no doubt that the victory would be of Congress & JD(S),'' Abhishek Manu Singhvi said.
Most important objective was to establish transparency. Since the statement has come from ASG that live feed of proceedings would be given, we hope & trust there would be fairness. I have no doubt that the victory would be of Congress & JD(S): Abhishek Manu Singhvi #Karnataka pic.twitter.com/bIBCybpRxQ
— ANI (@ANI) May 19, 2018
Karnataka Governor Vajubhai Vala had on Friday appointed KG Bopaiah as the Protem Speaker. However, this did not go well with the Congress and the Janata Dal-Secular, which later challenged Bopaiah's appointment in the top court.
The application was filed by an advocate Dev Dutt Kamat on behalf of the Congress and JDS. The matter came up for hearing before a bench of Justice AK Sikri, Justice SA Bobde and Justice Ashok Bhushan at 10.30 am.
Bopaiah will now preside over the floor test to ascertain whether newly-appointed Chief Minister Yeddyurappa enjoys a majority support in the assembly.
Challenging the appointment of Bopaiah as Protem Speaker and replacing him with the senior most member, the application had sought the videography of the floor test proceedings.
The plea by both Congress and JD(S) said that except for administering the oath and conducting floor test, the Protem Speaker should be restrained from exercising any other power.
The Congress contended that Bopaiah is not the senior-most member in the newly-elected House and as per the parliamentary convention, it is only the senior-most member in terms of the number of times he has been elected to the Assembly who can be a Protem Speaker.
The party further alleged that Bopaiah`s appointment was made "with the sole intent of manufacturing a majority out of minority for Yeddyurappa".
Pointing to the "brazen unconstitutional action" in appointing Bopaiah after the passing of the order earlier on Friday morning, the application by both the Congress and JD(S), said that despite the settled parliamentary convention and practice that the senior most member of the assembly in term of number of times he has been elected to the assembly, a junior MLA KG Bopaiah (BJP) has been appointed as Protem Speaker.
The application said that Bopaiah has a "dubious and controversial record of passing biased disqualification orders'' – a charge rejected by the BJP.
Amid dramatic developments, BS Yeddyurappa was sworn in as Chief Minister on Thursday at a simple ceremony at the Raj Bhavan.
Karnataka Governor Vajubhai Vala had earlier given Yeddyurappa 15 days for a test of strength. However, this time was slashed by the top court which, on Friday, asked him to take a floor test at 4 pm on Saturday.
The BJP is eight members short of the 112-majority mark in Karnataka. It has 104 MLAs but one of its lawmakers has been picked as a Protem Speaker.
The Congress and the Janata Dal-Secular (JDS) combine has 115 lawmakers and the two sides have taken extraordinary steps to prevent defections.
The Congress and JDS allege that their lawmakers were being threatened and also offered Rs 100-crore in bribes and lucrative ministries. One of the lawmakers, Anand Singh, was "kidnapped", the Congress claimed. Another Congress legislator also went MIA after putting down his signature on a list of party legislators.
Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa today exuded confidence that he will comfortably prove that he has the required numbers to stay in power.
''I am going to have an absolute majority,'' BS Yeddyurappa said in a brief statement to media before leaving for the Shangri-La hotel here.