The Supreme Court on Wednesday, 13 November, upheld the disqualification of 17 Karnataka MLAs of the former Congress-JD (S) government by the then Assembly speaker KR Ramesh Kumar, but said that they can recontest the 5 December bypolls.
“We'll welcome all the 17 disqualified MLA's who will join the BJP party tomorrow at 10:00 am,” said CM Yediyurappa while speaking to ANI.
The apex court also said if elected in the bypolls, the disqualified MLAs can become ministers or hold public office.
Kumar had disqualified these 17 MLAs of the Congress-JD(S) coalition ahead of a trust vote in July.
Then chief minister HD Kumaraswamy had resigned after losing the trust vote, paving the way for the BJP-led government in the state under BS Yediyurappa.
Key points of the order:
- Disqualification of 17 MLAs by Kumar has been upheld.
- The disqualification till the end of the term i.e. 2023 has been struck down.
- Disqualified MLAs can now contest the 5 December bypolls.
- Justice Ramana observed that "Citizens are denied stable governments.”
- The Bench said that it did not appreciate the way the petitioners approached the court, bypassing the High Court.
- SC recommends strengthening the Tenth Schedule “so that such undemocratic practices are discouraged.”
Bypolls 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 November and 18 November. Former CM Kumaraswamy said he was not totally happy with the judgment. “The way in which some political leaders are misusing our Constitutional bodies shouldn’t happen,” he said.
BJP Welcomes Verdict
Welcoming the SC verdict, CM Yediyurappa said that he was ‘101%’ confident that BJP would win all 17 seats. “ Just wait till evening. I will discuss with them, I will discuss with the national leadership also. We will take an appropriate decision in the evening,” he said on whether all 17 MLAs would be joining BJP.
"The court has upheld the speaker's decision on disqualification of 17 MLAs, along with that court has given the opportunity for them to contest the upcoming polls, we welcome the court judgment," state BJP President Nalin Kumar Kateel said.
Reacting to the SC verdict, disqualified MLA and former JD(S) state president, AH Vishwanath told ANI: “I welcome the judgment of the Supreme Court. We should be happy because the apex court has awarded a judgment.”
'Not Totally Happy,' Says Kumaraswamy on SC Verdict
Former chief minister HD Kumaraswamy expressed dissatisfaction with the apex court's verdict.
“I request that constitutional bodies have to take hard steps to save democratic system. They have to ensure that those things do not occur again in the future. Some political leaders for their personal gains are misusing our constitutional institutions,” he said.
He added, "I am not totally happy with this," reported ANI.
When asked if his party will support BJP, Kumaraswamy said, “I have not promised anybody to protect their parties. My party is there. My top priority is to strengthen it. Why do I have to support or safeguard any other party? Both national parties always blame regional parties whatever be their fault. In this political system, they always want to blame the other side. I don't want to play with regional parties.”
Cong Seeks Stricter Model of Disqualification; SC Counters It
Karnataka Congress Party sought directions from the apex court for formulation of a stricter model of disqualification for MLAs who indulge in anti-party activities.
But the Supreme Court said that 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.
Congress’ Siddaramaiah welcomed the verdict saying, “I welcome the whole judgment, even that of Supreme Court allowing them (17 disqualified MLAs) to contest by-elections. It is a lesson for the MLAs who wanted to join any other political party on whims and fancies or coercion by other parties.”
Another Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge also welcomed the decision, adding that the rebel leaders must change the party with their own free will and not under pressure or out of self-interest.
However, Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala called for the present government’s dismissal.
SC decision upholding the disqualification of ‘Defector MLAs’ has burst the bubble of BJP’s ‘Operation Kamal’— Randeep Singh Surjewala (@rssurjewala) November 13, 2019
It’s now proved that BJP brazenly & illegally brought down an elected JD(S)-Congress Govt in Karnataka
Yedurappa Govt. is an illegitimate Govt & should be dismissed
“Public opinion and democratic values demand that not should only the 'illegitimate' Yediyurappa government be sacked, but the BJP's conspiracy to bring down an elected government on the basis of money power of the legislators investigated. The 'Yediyurappa Tapes' need to be investigated.Where did all this black money come from? What was the role of BJP leadership?" he asked in subsequent tweets.
Abhishek Manu Singhvi echoed him and said the Yediyurappa government has no moral right to continue in office any more.
“There is clearly an attempt by the BJP to destroy democratic values through shameless display of money power... The Supreme Court decision vindicates the stand of the speaker almost 95 percent. It shows that 'Operation Kamal' is happening everyday and everywhere in the country. It shows that a large number of Congress-JDS MLAs were lured by the BJP through the use of money power,” PTI quoted Singhvi as saying.
The disqualified MLAs had recently approached the apex court seeking a direction to the Election Commission to postpone the Assembly bypolls for these 15 seats till the pronouncement of verdict in the matter.
Some of these disqualified MLAs had argued in the apex 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”.
A three-judge bench of justices NV Ramana, Sanjiv Khanna and Krishna Murari had on 25 October reserved its verdict on the petitions filed by these disqualified MLAs.
(With inputs from PTI, ANI)
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