The Supreme Court (SC) on Wednesday upheld the decision of former Karnataka Speaker KR Ramesh Kumar to disqualify 17 rebel MLAs from the Assembly. However, the apex court maintained that the Speaker does not have the power to bar the disqualified MLAs from contesting by-elections, bringing some relief to them. The court also ruled that the Speaker's decision to bar the 17 rebel MLAs from contesting elections till 2023 was invalid.
"We are upholding the order of the Speaker," said Justice Ramana while reading out the judgment. "Since we are deciding disqualification, resignation is not needed to be gone into. As such there is no doubt that disqualification has nothing to do with resignation," the court said.
A total of 17 disqualified Congress and Janata Dal (Secular) MLAs of Karnataka had challenged the orders of the then Assembly speaker Kumar to disqualify them and had approached the apex court. The legislators had revolted against the former coalition government of Congress and JD (S) resulting in its collapse. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) under the chief ministership of BS Yediyurappa formed the government in the state after JD (S) leader HD Kumaraswamy quit as the chief minister.
The court also added that it doesn't appreciate the manner in which the petitioners approached the court. Interim orders were passed by the coordinate bench.
"I welcome the judgement of the Supreme Court. We should be happy because the apex court has awarded a judgement," reacted AH Vishwanath, one of the disqualified Karnataka MLAs, after the SC judgement.
The SC had completed hearing in October 2019 but the apex court had reserved its verdict. During the hearing, some disqualified MLAs had told the SC that they have an "indefeasible right" to resign as MLAs and the decision by the then Speaker to disqualify them from Assembly highlights "vengeance" and "mala fide".
The Election Commission (EC) has scheduled the bypoll for the 15 Karnataka Assembly constituencies on December 5, after postponing them once. The Karnataka bypolls were earlier slated for October 21, but it was postponed to December 5 as the case was pending in the top court.
Kumar had in July 2019 disqualified the rebel MLAs rejecting the resignations tendered by them, after they remained absent from the House during former chief minister HD Kumaraswamy`s vote of confidence motion on July 23. Kumaraswamy had resigned after losing the trust vote which allowed the BJP to form government in the state.
In the 224-member Karnataka Assembly, the BJP currently has 105 MLAs and the support of one independent.