Karnataka Speaker KR Ramesh Kumar on Thursday announced that rebel Congress MLAs Ramesh Jarkiholi and Mahesh Kumathalli have been disqualified till the end of the current Assemblyâ€™s term. The Speaker also said that R Shankar, who earned the moniker of Pendulum for switching his allegiances frequently, has been disqualified till the end of the assembly's term. The Speaker announced that the decision on disqualification petitions of 14 other rebel MLAs of the JD(S) and Congress parties will be declared in the coming days.
The Speaker made his decision based on a disqualification petition filed by the Congress in February 2019 against Jarkiholi and Mahesh Kumathalli. The Congress had asked for their disqualification for anti-party activities. The petition against these two MLAs was re-issued when they tendered their resignations in July. The Speaker said that he was disqualifying the two MLAs and R Shankar on the basis of Section 2 (1) (a) of the Tenth Schedule. The Speaker has considered the act of resignation as the MLA voluntarily giving up his membership from the political party..
The Speaker insisted that the MLAs will not be eligible to contest elections until the current Assembly's term expires in 2023. Hence, their prospect of becoming ministers in the possible eventuality of the BJP forming the next government is out of contention. However, the three MLAs have the option of approaching the court against the Speaker's decision.
"Until the Assembly is dissolved and fresh elections are held to elect the 16th Legislative Assembly, these MLAs will not be able to enter the Assembly until the term of the 15th Assembly is over. They can appeal the order in the Supreme Court if they want," Ramesh Kumar further told reporters.
The Speaker also said that no one should misinterpret Article 164 and that these three MLAs cannot re-contest elections till this Assembly ends. Article 164 (1B) of the Constitution says that a member who has been disqualified cannot be made a minister till the expiry of his or her term, or until he or she is reelected.
Is R Shankar a Congress MLA?
R Shankar who won from Ranebennur constituency contesting as a candidate of the Karnataka Pragnyavantha Janatha Paksha (KPJP), had declared in June that he was merging his party with the Congress. However, there was ambiguity over whether the merger was completed as KPJP had not completed the necessary paper work. The Speaker, however, says that the formalities were completed in the last week of June.
He told the media, "On June 14, 2019, R Shankar and Congress Legislature Party leader Siddaramaiah both submitted letters. Shankar had stated that since he was the only KPJP member in the Assembly, he can merge with the Congress. He submitted a letter to this effect and had requested me to take the next course of action. Siddaramaiah had also said that all formalities were completed and that Shankar was inducted into the Congress party as an associate member. On June 25, 2019, I wrote a letter to the Secretary of the Speaker's office saying Shankar is now a member of the Congress party and to allot a seat with the Congress leaders in the Assembly."
Therefore, the Speaker has used Section 2 (1) (a) of the Tenth Schedule to disqualify Shankar.
Took time to decide
Delivering his verdict on the resignations of just three MLAs, the Speaker said that he wanted to be careful as the country was watching him. â€śSeveral MLAs have tendered their resignations and the Congress Legislature Party leaders have appealed for their disqualification. These MLAs who resigned also appealed to the Supreme Court. I have considered the arguments of all parties and also the Supreme Court's interim order and in order to ensure that things are not done in a hurry,â€ť he told reporters.
â€śI took time to consider the issue. The issue of resignations and disqualification of the MLAs was heard in the Speaker's court, which is a quasi-judicial authority,â€ť he added.
Explaining his decision on Ramesh and Mahesh, he said, â€śRamesh Jarkiholi and Mahesh Kumatahalli submitting their resignations when I was not in office and lied to the Supreme Court that I absconded from the office. And they expect me to accept that their resignations are voluntary and genuine. And when I called them for a hearing, they did not show up. I therefore hold that Ramesh Jarkiholi and Mahesh Kumatahalli have incurred disqualification for being a member of the Legislative Assembly as per 2 1 (a) of Schedule 10 of the Constitution.â€ť
BJP will not stake claim?
Though BS Yeddyurappa was all set to stake claim to form a new government, the BJP high command was skeptical and wanted him to wait till there was more clarity on the Speaker's decision. The developments on Thursday may further prompt the BJP to wait and watch and consider the possibility of Presidentâ€™s rule till the time bye-elections are completed in these seats.