Karnataka bypolls on 21 October to be deferred till Supreme Court decides on disqualified MLAs' pleas, says Election Commission

The 17 Karnataka MLAs were disqualified in July by then-Speaker KR Ramesh Kumar. The three-judge bench had on Monday agreed to hear the petitions of the disqualified MLAs who are seeking to contest the upcoming bypolls.

FP Staff September 26, 2019 17:33:54 IST
Karnataka bypolls on 21 October to be deferred till Supreme Court decides on disqualified MLAs' pleas, says Election Commission
  • The Election Commission told Supreme Court that it will defer the bypolls for 15 Karnataka Assembly seats in view of the pending hearing of the petitions challenging the disqualification of 17 MLAs.

  • The poll panel's statement came after the top court said it will finally decide on the batch of petitions of 17 the MLAs.

  • The apex court then said it will continue hearing arguments in the matter on 22 October.

In a relief to 17 disqualified Karnataka MLAs, the Election Commission told Supreme Court that it will defer the bypolls for 15 Assembly seats in view of the pending hearing of the petitions challenging the disqualification. As per the disqualification order, the MLAs persons cannot contest elections for the remaining term of the current Assembly which will end in 2023. The bypolls to 15 out of the total 17 vacant Assembly seats were earlier scheduled for 21 October.

The poll panel's statement came after the top court said it will finally decide on the batch of petitions of 17 the MLAs.

After the bench, headed by Justice NV Ramana and comprising justices Sanjiv Khanna and Krishna Murari, said that it would hear the matter completely and decide it, senior advocate Rakesh Dwivedi, appearing for the poll panel, said: "Then I will ask the Election Commission to defer it (by-polls for 15 Assembly seats in Karnataka) for sometime". The apex court then said it will continue hearing arguments in the matter on 22 October.

The MLAs were disqualified in July by then-Speaker KR Ramesh Kumar. The three-judge bench had on Monday agreed to hear the petitions of the disqualified MLAs seeking to contest the bypolls. The Election Commission had then told the top court that the order disqualifying the 17 MLAs cannot deprive them of their right to contest bypolls, while adding that the by-elections should not be stayed.

Karnataka bypolls on 21 October to be deferred till Supreme Court decides on disqualified MLAs pleas says Election Commission

File image of the Election Commission of India. News18

On Wednesday, the Karnataka Speaker's office told the Supreme Court that the right to resignation by a lawmaker is a "democratic right" and it is high time that the judiciary lay down guidelines for speakers.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Speaker's office, told the bench an MLA can be disqualified for giving up membership of a political party but he or she cannot be disqualified for giving up membership of the House.

"Probably, this may happen frequently and travel beyond these 17 persons. Right to resign is a right recognised by this court in a Constitution bench verdict," he said.

"I cannot be critical of what has happened in the past in this case but it may happen very frequently and the issue needs to be adjudicated. It's high time that the judiciary lay down guidelines for the Speaker."

However, the bench said the courts cannot lay down guidelines for Speakers. "How can we lay down guidelines for the speaker? He is a Constitutional authority," the bench said, adding, "we cannot encroach in his domain."

Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for some of the disqualified MLAs, assailed Ramesh Kumar's decision and said there is no rule that the disqualification has to be decided first and resignation kept pending.

The upcoming bypolls to 15 Assembly constituencies in Karnataka should be stayed or deferred till the top court decides this issue and alternatively, the disqualification order should also be stayed, he had said.

During a political crisis in July, Ramesh Kumar had disqualified the MLAs, which eventually led to fall of the Congress-JD(S) government headed by the then chief minister HD Kumaraswamy.

Kumaraswamy resigned as chief minister after losing a trust vote, which paved the way for the BJP-led government in the state under BS Yediyurappa.

The disqualified lawmakers have approached the apex court, challenging former Speaker Ramesh Kumar's decision to disqualify them.

Some of them have contended in their pleas that the decision taken by him before resigning as speaker was an "illegal", "arbitrary" and "mala fide" exercise of his power under the 10th Schedule of the Constitution.

They also questioned Kumar's decision to reject their resignations by holding that those weren't voluntary and genuine.

With inputs from PTI

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