New Delhi, Nov 13: The Supreme Court has upheld the disqualification of the 17 rebels from Karnataka. However the court said that they can contest the by-elections to the seats that fell vacant.
The Speaker's decision of disqualification of the MLAs until 2023 has however been set aside and this paved the way for them to contest the upcoming by-elections in the state.
The SC said that the Speaker cannot disqualify an MLA until the end of the term of the assembly. This has now paved the way for the rebels to file their nomination papers and fight the upcoming by-elections.
The court said that the Speaker cannot dictate the duration of the disqualification till the end of the 15th legislative assembly term. The court however refrained from commenting on the validity of their resignations.
The Speaker could not have barred the MLAs for any term. Speaker does not have the powers, the court ruled. The court also observed on the growing trend of Speakers acting on constitutional mandates that citizens are denied stable governments.
The Speaker should have given reasonable time for considering the resignations by the MLAs. Validity of resignations depend on facts and circumstances of each case. The Speaker is not empowered to disqualify MLAs under the 10th Schedule till the end of the term. Political morality cannot overawe constitutional morality, the Bench also noted.
The court also said that both the Representation of People Act and the 10th Schedule no where it is contemplated that disqualification by a Speaker of an MLA would serve to bar him from contesting the elections.
The Supreme Court was delivering its verdict on the plea by the disqualified MLAs who had challenged the orders of the then Assembly speaker K R Ramesh Kumar to disqualify them.
A three-judge bench of justices N V Ramana, Sanjiv Khanna and Krishna Murari had on October 25 reserved its verdict on the petitions filed by these disqualified MLAs.
Kumar had disqualified these 17 MLAs of ruling the Congress-JD(S) coalition ahead of a trust vote in July.
The then chief minister H D Kumaraswamy had resigned after losing the trust vote, which paved the way for the BJP-led government in the state under B S Yediyurappa.
By-polls to 15 out of these 17 assembly seats which fell vacant following the disqualification of MLAS are scheduled on December 5 and candidates are required to file their nomination papers between November 11 and November 18.
These disqualified MLAs had recently approached the court seeking a direction to the Election Commission to postpone the assembly by-polls for these 15 seats till the pronouncement of verdict in the matter.
Some of these disqualified MLAs had argued in the court that they have an "indefeasible right" to resign as members of the assembly and the decision by the then Speaker to disqualify them smacks of "vengeance" and "mala fide".
During the arguments in the matter, senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for the Karnataka Congress, had contended that the then Speaker, who was the master of the Assembly, had exercised his jurisdiction to disqualify these MLAs and his decision cannot be questioned.
Sibal had also submitted that "the matter needs to be referred to a Constitution bench as it raises matters of grave constitutional importance".
The incumbent Karnataka Assembly Speaker had earlier told the top court that he has no difficulty in hearing these 17 MLAs and take a "fresh call" on the issue.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the office of the Karnataka Assembly Speaker, had submitted that under the scheme of Constitution, a lawmaker has a right to resign and the Speaker should accept it. The current Assembly Speaker is V Hegde Kageri.