Disqualification case of 17 Karnataka MLAs: Mukul Rohatgi tells SC bench to defer bypolls or stay ex-Speaker KR Ramesh's order

The 17 Karnataka MLAs, who were disqualified from the state Assembly earlier this year, on Wednesday asked the Supreme Court to make Election Commission a party to their case

FP Staff September 25, 2019 14:18:42 IST
Disqualification case of 17 Karnataka MLAs: Mukul Rohatgi tells SC bench to defer bypolls or stay ex-Speaker KR Ramesh's order
  • The 17 Karanataka MLAs, who were disqualified from the state Assembly earlier this year, on Wednesday asked the Supreme Court to make Election Commission a party to their case

  • The move comes after the EC said that the former Karnataka Speaker's order disqualifying them from the Assembly cannot deprive them of their right to contest the upcoming by-polls

  • However, the election body has opposed their plea to cancel or postpone the bypolls

The 17 Karnataka MLAs, who were disqualified from the state Assembly earlier this year, asked the Supreme Court on Wednesday to make the Election Commission a party to their case seeking annulment of ex-Karnataka Speaker's order disqualifying them.

The move comes after the EC said that the former Karnataka Speaker's order disqualifying them from the Assembly cannot deprive them of their right to contest the upcoming bypolls for 15 constituencies in the state.

Disqualification case of 17 Karnataka MLAs Mukul Rohatgi tells SC bench to defer bypolls or stay exSpeaker KR Rameshs order

File image of the Supreme Court. PTI

Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, who is representing several of the 17 disqualified MLAs, requested a bench of Justices NV Ramana, Sanjiv Khanna and Krishna Murari to either stay the Speaker's order or defer by-elections till such time the court decides the matter, arguing that the MLAs petitions against disqualification will otherwise become infructuous.

Rohtagi also sought to clarify that the MLAs "were not afraid" of going back to the electorate but they also didn't want to go to the people with "the taint of disqualification."

The EC has backed the MLAs on their right to contest the by-elections, however, the election body has opposed their plea to cancel or postpone the bypolls.

"I have no say on the issue of disqualification. The gist of the matter is that the Speaker has disqualified them and vacancy is there. The election should not be stayed," EC's counsel told the bench on Monday. However, he added that the Speaker's order cannot "deprive them of the right to contest the elections."

The top court had issued notices to the Speaker of Karnataka Assembly, Karnataka Congress and JD(S) leaders and the state government on the petitions.

The office of the Speaker is being represented by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta while the disqualified MLAs are being represented by Rohatgi and senior lawyer V Giri. The Congress leaders are being represented by their party colleague Kapil Sibal.

On Monday, Sibal had questioned the EC's stand on allowing the MLAs to contest the bypolls saying it was surprising why EC was expressing an opinion on the matter.

"Why the Election Commission has come and said so, we are surprised," Sibal said.

Rohatgi said that order of the then Speaker KR Ramesh Kumar disqualifying these 17 MLAs should be stayed as he had said that the resignations tendered by them might be voluntary, but "motivated".

He said Kumar had given only three days to these MLAs to respond to the disqualification notices which was completely illegal as according to the Karnataka Assembly rules a minimum of 7-day notice period has to be given for disqualification.

"If someone does not wish to be an MLA, nobody can force him unless there is a gun on his head," Rohatgi said, adding that they have been disqualified for the remaining tenure of the current Assembly which would end in 2023.

"We should be entitled to contest the election (bypolls)," he said, adding that the then Speaker had said in his order that these disqualified MLAs cannot even contest the bypolls during the tenure of this Assembly till 2023.

While countering Rohatgi's submissions, Sibal had said that facts referred to him are contrary to the records.
"I have to respond on this," Sibal told the bench, adding that no interim orders should be passed at this stage. Sibal will continue his arguments on Thursday.

The then Speaker had disqualified these MLAs which eventually led to the fall of the Congress-JD(S) coalition government headed by the then chief minister HD Kumaraswamy. Kumaraswamy resigned as the chief minister after losing a trust vote, which paved the way for the BJP-led government in the southern state under Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa.

The disqualified lawmakers have approached the top court, challenging Kumar's decision to disqualify them.

Some of them have contended in their pleas that the decision taken by Kumar before resigning as the Speaker was an entirely illegal, arbitrary and mala fide exercise of his power under the 10th Schedule of the Constitution. They have also questioned Kumar's decision to reject their resignations by holding that those were not voluntary and genuine.

With inputs from agencies

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