The Supreme Court on Tuesday reserved its order in the rebel Karnataka MLAs' resignations for Wednesday at 10.30 am, after holding a hearing in the case that lasted several hours.
The Chief Justice-headed bench will pronounce the order on the petition of 15 dissident MLAs of Congress and JD(S) seeking a direction to Karnataka Assembly Speaker KR Ramesh Kumar to accept their resignation and not proceed with the application for their disqualification. It needs to be noted that the trust vote for the HD Kumaraswamy government in Karnataka is likely to be held on Thursday.
A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi concluded the hearings of the rebel MLAs, the Speaker and Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy on Tuesday.
Summing up the arguments, senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the 15 MLAs, sought that the interim order directing the Speaker to maintain status quo on the issue of resignations and disqualification of the MLAs be continued
The counsel for the rebel MLAs also asked the bench that if the House assembles for business, the 15 rebel MLAs be exempted from appearing on the basis of the whip of the ruling coalition which, he said, has been reduced to minority government.
Appearing for Kumaraswamy, senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan said the top court had no jurisdiction to pass the two interim orders asking the Speaker to decide and, later, to maintain the status quo on the resignations and disqualification of the rebel MLAs.
Dhavan told the bench that the Speaker cannot be compelled to decide this issue in a time bound manner. "When resignation process is not in order, court cannot direct Speaker to decide by 6 pm," Dhavan told the bench, also comprising Justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose.
Kumaraswamy also told the court that the rebel MLAs were hunting in a pack to destabilise his government and that the court should not have entertained their petitions.
Senior advocate AM Singhvi, appearing for the Speaker, told the bench that no direction was issued to the Speaker by the court in the midnight hearing when floor test was ordered and BS Yeddyurappa was invited to form the government in 2018.
He told the bench that the Speaker was yet to decide on the resignations and disqualification of rebel MLAs and the court had ample power to punish.
The Speaker's counsel urged the apex court to modify its earlier order directing him to maintain status quo in the ongoing political crisis in the state even as the rebel MLAs accused him of acting in a partisan manner by not deciding on their resignations.
Singhvi said the Speaker would decide on both disqualifications and resignation of the rebel MLAs by Wednesday but the court should modify its earlier order asking him to maintain status quo.
Rohatgi argued that the Speaker cannot keep the resignation of these MLAs pending and by doing so he is acting in a partisan manner.
Countering his submissions, Singhvi told the bench that Speakers cannot be asked to decide the matter in a time-bound manner.
"How can the speaker be directed to decide in a particular manner?" Singhvi asked the court. "Such orders are not passed even to a trial court."
He also said that a valid resignation should be submitted to the Speaker personally and the MLAs appeared before him only on 11 July, five days after they submitted their resignations to his office.
The rebel MLAs told the court that the Speaker kept their resignation pending just to disqualify them and there was nothing wrong in resigning to escape disqualification.
Rohatgi submitted before the bench that the Speaker can be directed to decide on the resignation of the MLAs by 2 pm and he can take a call on their disqualification later.
The bench asked Rohatgi if there was any constitutional obligation on the Speaker to decide on the MLAs' disqualification which was initiated after the resignation. Rohatgi said the rules say to "decide now" on resignation. "How can the Speaker keep it pending?"
The rebel MLAs told the court that the state government has been reduced to minority and the Speaker, by not accepting their resignations, has attempted coercing them to vote for the government in trust vote.
Disqualification proceeding is a mini-trial under the Constitution's 10th Schedule, Rohatgi said, adding that resignation is different and its acceptance is based on a single criterion alone — whether it is voluntary or not. There is nothing to show the rebel MLAs conspired with BJP, he said, adding that the disqualification proceeding was nothing but to scuttle resignation of MLAs.
He also told the court that the Speaker has to only see if the resignations were voluntary or not. "Resignation has to be accepted, there is no other way to deal with it," Rohatgi told the court.
"It is my fundamental right to do whatever I want to do and cannot be bound due to non-acceptance of resignation by Speaker," submitted Rohatgi.
There is a vote of confidence in Assembly and the rebel MLAs may be forced to follow whip despite resigning, he said.
Rohatgi told the court that 10 ruling coalition MLAs resigned on 6 July and disqualification proceedings against two lawmakers were pending. "When was the disqualification proceedings filed against rest eight MLAs," the top court asked, to which Rohatgi responded that disqualification proceedings started against them on 10 July.
Row over Roshan Baig's detention
The Congress-JD(S) and the BJP exchanged barbs on Twitter over the detention of rebel Congress MLA Roshan Baig by Special Investigation Team (SIT) probing the alleged IMA ponzi scheme.
IMA Ponzi Scam case: Suspended Congress MLA Roshan Baig who was taken for inquiry yesterday from Bengaluru airport back home after interrogation ended for today. He was allowed to appear on July 19 for further interrogation pic.twitter.com/slXWpAxuvU
— ANI (@ANI) July 16, 2019
Baig was released in Bengaluru from detention on Tuesday afternoon after several hours of questioning from Monday night by the SIT. Baig, detained by sleuths of the team before he was to board a chartered plane to an unknown destination from the Bengaluru airport, was allowed to go with a rider that he will have to turn up on 19 July for further questioning, SIT sources told PTI. The SIT had asked Baig, to appear before it on 15 July, but he did not turn up citing important works and had instead said he would be available on 25 July. The rebel Congress MLA, suspended from the party for his "anti-party activities", is among the 16 legislators of the ruling combine who have tendered their resignations from the Assembly. It was alleged Baig was about to fly to Mumbai to join other rebel MLAs camping there but he refuted the charge saying, we was on the way to Pune for some "personal work". Kumaraswamy, too, tweeted that Baig was flying to Mumbai and BJP state chief BS Yeddyurappa's personal assistant Santhosh accompanied him when the SIT detained him at the airport. The BJP rejected the charge and said Santhosh was not there.
BJP's Yogeshwar was present at the time there.Its a shame that @BJP4Karnataka is helping a former minister escape, who is facing a probe in the #IMA case. This clearly shows #BJP' s direct involvement in destabilizing the govt through horse trading.2/2@INCIndia @INCKarnataka — H D Kumaraswamy (@hd_kumaraswamy) July 16, 2019
A former minister in the previous Siddaramaiah government, Baig landed in the IMA controversy after the company owner Mohammed Mansoor Khan, facing charges of duping thousands of investors, alleged the Congress MLA took Rs 400 crore from him but did not return it.
Senior Congress leader Dinesh Gundu Rao tweeted, "The BJP is now escorting Roshan Baig! They were targeting him just a few weeks ago in the IMA scam. Clearly shows their hand in trying to topple the Congress-JD(S) government. Doesn’t this prove our allegations that the resignations of our MLA’s are neither voluntary nor genuine?"
The Kumaraswamy-led government in Karnataka is on the brink of collapse with 16 MLAs — 13 of the Congress and three of the JD(S), resigning from their Assembly memberships. Two Independent MLAs have also withdrawn support to the state government and are supporting the Opposition BJP.
With inputs from agencies
Updated Date: Jul 17, 2019 00:00:25 IST