SC verdict on rebel Karnataka MLAs: Stricter model of disqualification will have 'chilling effect' on legitimate dissent, says apex court

  • The Karnataka Congress unit had contended that the court should consider desirability of having a stricter model of disqualification

  • Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, representing the party, had termed the actions of the disqualified MLAs a constitutional sin

  • The court's observations came in its verdict upholding the disqualification of 17 Congress-JD(S) MLAs in Karnataka

New Delhi: Having a "stricter model" of disqualification for lawmakers who defy the party line will have a chilling effect on legitimate dissent and it cannot be accepted, the Supreme Court said Wednesday.

Karnataka Congress Party had sought directions from the apex court for the formulation of a stricter model of disqualification for MLAs who indulge in anti-party activities.

A three-judge bench, headed by Justice NV Ramana, who penned the 109-page judgment on behalf of himself and Justices Sanjiv Khanna and Krishna Murari, said it does not subscribe to such an extreme stand, considering that it could have a chilling effect on legitimate dissent.

"In any case, such a change in the policy cannot be looked into by this court, as the same squarely falls within the legislative forte. Any attempt to interfere is better termed as reconstruction, which falls beyond the scope of legal interpretation by the courts," the bench said.

 SC verdict on rebel Karnataka MLAs: Stricter model of disqualification will have chilling effect on legitimate dissent, says apex court

Supreme Court of India. Reuters

The Karnataka Congress unit had contended that the court should consider desirability of having a stricter model of disqualification wherein a person who has jumped the party lines should not be encouraged and should be punished with severe penal consequences for attempting to do so.

Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, representing the party, had termed the actions of the disqualified MLAs a constitutional sin.

The court's observations came in its verdict upholding the disqualification of 17 Congress-JD(S) MLAs in Karnataka by the then-Assembly Speaker but paved the way for them to contest the 5 December by-polls on 15 seats in the state.

While upholding their disqualification, the apex court set aside the portion of the orders by the then speaker KR Ramesh Kumar by which the legislators were disqualified till the end of the 15th Karnataka Legislative Assembly's term in 2023.

Kumar had disqualified the 17 MLAs of the Congress-JD(S) coalition ahead of a trust vote in July.

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

The 17 disqualified MLAs are: Pratap Gowda Patil, BC Patil, Shivram Hebbar, ST Somashekar, Byrati Basavaraj, Anand Singh, R Roshan Baig, N Munirathna, K Sudhakar and MTB Nagaraj, Shrimant Patil, Ramesh Jarkiholi, Mahesh Kumatalli and R Shankar (all Congress). JD(S) members who faced action are K Gopalaiah, AH Vishwanath and KC Narayana Gowda.

By-polls to 15 out of these 17 assembly seats which fell vacant following the disqualification of MLAs are scheduled on 5 December and candidates are required to file their nomination papers between 11 and 18 November.

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Updated Date: Nov 13, 2019 17:55:13 IST