The Supreme Court on Friday maintained status quo in the case pertaining to the resignation and disqualification of 10 members of the Karnataka Legislative Assembly. The hearing went on for over an hour on Friday and the matter will be heard in detail in the next hearing scheduled for Tuesday.
This effectively gives the ruling coalition in the state a much-needed breather in light of the recent crisis. A bench headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi contended that during arguments, various issues of interpretation of constitutional provisions were raised. The bench said that the matter needed deep consideration as it was also related to the court's powers while issuing directions to the Speaker. "Question of judicial interfere also comes up. It also needs to be examined if Speaker needs to decide disqualification first," the court said.
This comes after arguments were made by senior advocates on behalf of the rebel MLAs, Speaker KR Ramesh Kumar, and Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy. The rebel MLAs were represented by former Attorney General of India Mukul Rohatgi, the Speaker by Abhishek Manu Singhvi and the Chief Minister by Rajeev Dhawan.
Appearing for the rebel MLAs, Mukul Rohatgi urged the court to issue a contempt notice to the Speaker for questioning the SC's orders by refusing to act as per the SC-set deadline for a decision on the resignations submitted by ten legislators. Rohatgi told the court that the resignations were one-line letters for which not much time is required to take a decision, reports LiveLaw. Rohatgi also pointed out that a whip has been issued to the MLAs to be present in house and called it a ploy to cause their disqualification by delaying acceptance of their resignation.
In response, AM Singhvi stated that the Speaker had the constitutional obligation under Article 190(3)(b) to ensure that the resignations were voluntary and genuine. Article 190(3)(b) of the Constitution allows the Speaker to not accept any resignation if the he/she feels that it is not voluntary or genuine. He added that the rebel MLAs were trying to avoid defection and that the Speaker has to check whether they have incurred disqualification as per anti-defection clauses, under Schedule 10 of the Constitution, which cannot be done in a hurry.
The two advocates, representing the Chief Minister and Speaker, questioned on what basis were the 10 MLAs allowed an emergency hearing on grounds of Article 32. Article 32 guarantees judicial remedy to protect fundamental rights. Senior counsel Rajeev Dhawan pointed out in one such case the Punjab and Haryana High Court had given four months time to the Speaker to decide on the case. He also suggested that the petition by rebel MLAs was "overtly political."
Other contentious issues which were raised if a Constitutional court can issue direction to Speaker to decide on resignations.
This comes after the Speaker on Thursday evening sought time citing his duties and constitutional obligations to decide on the resignation of the 10 rebel MLAs who had approached the Supreme Court. The rebel MLAs had approached the SC accusing the Speaker of deliberately delaying their resignations and acting in a biased manner.
The Speaker’s move to withhold taking a decision on the resignations came even when he was directed by the top court to do so on Thursday. The Speaker claimed he needed more time as he had been approached by the Congress seeking disqualification of four Congress MLAs.
Meanwhile, Youth Congress Secretary Anil Chacko Joseph in Karnataka and workers of the party approached the court pleading to intervene in the ongoing case claiming that the resignation of these 10 rebel MLAs was to be treated as defections. The CJI has allowed them to file an intervention application.