The Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld the disqualification of 17 rebel Karnataka MLAs, whose revolt led to the collapse of the Janata Dal (Secular)-Congress coalition government and the eventual seizure of power by the BS Yediyurappa-led BJP in the state.
The apex court ruled that the disqualified MLAs will be allowed to contest the the upcoming Assembly bypolls on 5 December, quashing then-Assembly Speaker KR Ramesh Kumar's order to bar the lawmakers from contesting the upcoming election.
The three-judge bench headed by Justice NV Ramana and comprising Justices Sanjiv Khanna and Krishna Murari held that the Speaker was not empowered to disqualify the lawmakers for the entire tenure of the term, which lasts until 2023.
In a boost for the Yediyurappa government in the state, as the MLAs — 14 from the Congress and three from the JD(S) — were reportedly to join the BJP on Thursday at 10.30 am and are hopeful of being given tickets by the saffron party to contest the by-elections. Additionally, the Supreme Court judgment said that that the disqualified MLAs can become ministers or hold public office, if elected back to power.
Hailing the top court order, Karnataka Congress unit chief Dinesh Gundu Rao said that the verdict proved that the BJP had used unconstitutional means to fabricate a majority and alleged that the ruling party was behind the toppling of the coalition government in July this year.
"I welcome the Supreme Court verdict. The hand of BJP in toppling the coalition government is now clear. The involvement of BS Yediyurappa and Amit Shah is now proved," Rao tweeted.
I welcome the #SupremeCourt verdict.
If BJP has any morality left, they should not give tickets to these disqualified MLA’s to contest.
Rao was also quoted as saying, "The disqualified lawmakers repeatedly said that the then-Speaker's order was not right, that they are not ineligible, that they had resigned on their own will and that there was no pressure on them. They also claimed that no one was lured. But the fact that they have lied so far has been proven by a Supreme Court order."
However, former prime minister and JD(S) supreme HD Deve Gowda said that the Supreme Court ruling on Wednesday were just "just observations" and negated the orders of the Speaker.
Former PM&JD(S)leader HD Deve Gowda on SC upholding disqualification of 17 K'taka MLAs but allowing them to contest polls: The end result is that MLAs are allowed to contest elections. This way, Speaker's orders are ultimately nullified. Rest all are just observations made by SC pic.twitter.com/ommqZYfOKi
— ANI (@ANI) November 13, 2019
The Karnataka Congress also supported the apex court's decision and hoped that it will be a "clear warning to the losers in the entire country". In addition, the statement issued a warning to the BJP against giving tickets to the disqualified legislators if it considered itself to be "moral".
Siddaramaiah, the Leader of Opposition in the Karnataka Legislative Assembly, welcomed the judgment and said, "The decision of the Honourable Supreme Court exposes the moral bankruptcy of
the BJP leaders and the disqualified MLAs. #OperationKamala is now a proved act and there is nothing more shameful than this."
Hon. Supreme Court's judgement proves that the MLAs defected the party with ulterior motives and hence their disqualification. The defection is not voluntary and not genuine. Once an MLA is elected in a democratic setup, they can't switch parties as they wish.#disqualifiedmlas
— Siddaramaiah (@siddaramaiah) November 13, 2019
"The voters in those 17 seats will defeat all these MLAs who had defected. Not that I am telling, that I am going to defeat them, the voters will defeat them. The message has gone to the people of the country and also particularly to the Congress workers in Karnataka, defection attracts anti-defection laws," the Congress leader said in a press conference soon after the judgment.
Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala, in a series of tweets, put the "ball in Narendra Modi's court" asking whether the prime minister would "order an inquiry into 'Operation Kamal'.
He said, "Democratic mandate and Constitutional principles demand that not only the 'illegitimate’ Yediyurappa government be dismissed but a full inquiry be also held into the sinister conspiracy of BJP to bring down an elected government by misusing ‘money power’."
Democratic mandate & Constitutional principles warrant that an independent ‘inquiry’ be held to ascertain-
1. The ugly truth of ‘Yediyurappa Tapes’?
2. Where did the ‘black money’ come from?
3. What was the role of ‘BJP leadership’ in this sordid saga? pic.twitter.com/g8R8Ulvkmk
— Randeep Singh Surjewala (@rssurjewala) November 13, 2019
‘Ball’ is in PM Modi’s ‘court’.
1. Will Modiji show the courage of conviction to dismiss Yediyurappa Govt?
2. Will PM order an investigation into ‘Operation Kamal’?
3. Will the role of ‘Yedi & Shah’ be investigated? pic.twitter.com/eWyI6fzg3o
— Randeep Singh Surjewala (@rssurjewala) November 13, 2019
Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi also said that the Supreme Court judgment on the disqualification of the MLAs has vindicated the stand of the former Speaker and therefore, his party will seek dismissal of the Yediyurappa government in Karnataka.
"A judgment has come today from the Supreme Court. Legally, it has vindicated the stand of the speaker. It has upheld disqualification order passed by him against the 17 MLAs. It has held resignation cannot be used as a subterfuge to avoid disqualification," Singhvi told reporters.
He further said that constitutionally or politically, Congress would seek resignation of Yediyurappa government as it has no legal, moral or political right to stay in office.
"The BJP used every unethical mean to engineer these defections which led to these disqualifications. A large number of Congress and JDS MLAs were sought to be swayed by the BJP. There is a clear attempt by BJP to sabotage democratic norms and values," he added.
Other leaders of the Congress and its allies also welcomed the Supreme Court judgment.
We accept the judgement of Hon. Supreme Court on disqualified MLAs. The people of Karnataka will now decide the fate of MLAs who betrayed their trust. Political morality of the #disqualifiedmlas is exposed in front of the whole world.#Disqualifiedmlasverdict
— B Z Zameer Ahmed Khan (@BZZameerAhmedK) November 13, 2019
We welcome the decission of SC in upholding disqualification of 17 MLAs but it's completely unacceptable that they can now contest bypolls. Such buyable reprs who disrespected public mandate shouldn't be given a chance again. #Disqualifiedmlasverdict https://t.co/FUQAzHWLqk
— Surbhi Dwivedi (@DwivediSurbhi) November 13, 2019
Meanwhile, Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa also welcomed the ruling that allowed the disqualified MLAs to contest the election.
While he remained non-committal on whether the rebel lawmakers, who are set to join the BJP, would be given tickets to contest the polls, he was quoted by reports as saying, "I welcome the Supreme Court decision, all 17 MLAs can now contest election. From Thursday, we are going to go all out in all the constituencies (in preparation for the bypolls) and 101 percent we are going to win in all the seats. We will take a decision on Wednesday evening on whether they will get a ticket."
The bench deprecated the manner in which the disqualified MLAs directly approached it without first moving high court. The court said its verdict is based on facts and circumstance of the case and does not interfere in the Speaker's power to disqualify members.
The top court had reserved its verdict on 25 October on petitions filed by these disqualified MLAs challenging orders of Kumar to disqualify them.
Kumar had disqualified the 17 legislators of the ruling Congress-JD(S) coalition ahead of a trust vote in July.
With inputs from PTI
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Updated Date: Nov 13, 2019 16:42:19 IST