If the trust vote is not conducted, the Governor has the power to dismiss Kumaraswamy from his post as Karnataka Chief Minister, say Constitutional experts.

What the Karnataka Governor can do if trust vote is not held within his time limit
news Karnataka Politics Friday, July 19, 2019 - 14:59

Despite Karnataka Governor Vajubhai Vala writing to Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy asking him to prove his majority in the House by 1.30 pm on Friday, the floor test was not conducted on time. The Governor has given a new deadline and has asked Kumaraswamy to prove his mandate by the end of Friday, but it does not seem if the coalition is inclined to allow the trust vote to happen. So what action can the Governor now take, since both the Speaker and the Chief Minister do not seem inclined to hold a confidence vote on an urgent basis?

“It is now up to the Governor to decide the further course of action. The Governor can decide that since a majority has not been obtained, it is presumed that the Chief Minister has lost majority support and can ask him to resign,” Subhash Kashyap, a constitutional expert, told TNM. “If the CM refuses to resign, the Ministry can be dismissed by the Governor and a new CM can be appointed – who will then be asked to prove his majority,” he added.

“The coalition does not have many legal options if they’ve lost majority support,” Subhash Kashyap said, “Whether they have lost support or not should be decided ideally on the floor of the House. But if the House is not allowed to prove its majority, then the coalition does not have an option and a fresh trust vote will be held,” he added.

Alternatively, the Governor can also recommend President's Rule under Article 356 to the Centre.

“What could happen is that the Governor can call for President’s rule in the state,” Former High Court Justice D Hariparanthaman told TNM. In case Governor suggests President's Rule, the Parliament must approve this within two months, after which the Assembly will be dissolved. Until it is dissolved, the Assembly will be in suspended animation. "Once that happens, Yeddyurappa can be asked to hold a floor test," Justice Hariparanthaman added. In case there is a situation where no one has majority, the next course of action is to hold reelections. 

The imposition of the President's rule requires the sanction of both the houses of Parliament within two months. If approved, it can go on for a period of six months. However, the imposition cannot be extended for three years, and needs to be brought before the two houses every six months for approval.

Speaking in the Karnataka Assembly, Congress MLA Krishna Byre Gowda asked Speaker Ramesh Kumar to decide on Governor's message but to also consider the rights of legislators as well. He quoted a Supreme Court Constitutional Bench ruling from 2016, during a similar political crisis in Arunachal Pradesh, on the limitations on the rights of Governors.

In detailed arguments, Karnataka Minister Krishna Byre Gowda cited the limitations of the discretionary powers of the Governor as stated in the Nabam Rebia And Etc. Etc vs Deputy Speaker And Ors order. In the Arunachal Pradesh case, the Constitutional Bench had said, “All that need be said is that except in specified matters, executive functions of the Governor whether relating to governance issues or issues pertaining to the Legislature are required to be performed by him on the aid and advise of the Council of Ministers and the Rules framed by the House. No discretion is available to him in these matters since he is bound by the advice given to him by the Council of Ministers and Article 163 of the Constitution cannot be imported into these matters. The only discretion available to the Governor under Article 163 of the Constitution is in respect of matters provided for by or under the Constitution not relatable to the Council of Ministers and the Judiciary.”

Krishna Byre Gowda levelled allegations against the BJP of causing a breakdown of constitutional institutions. “In your greed for power, you're causing the breakdown of the constitutional machinery,” he said.

In the Assembly, Krishna Byre Gowda contested, “The Governor's action on a group is not under the tenth schedule. The question of adoption or rejection of resolution only the legislature can be taken. Only if the legislatures agree it can be passed. Governor cannot schedule it.”

However, Subhash Kashyap stated that the Governor has a right under Article 175 of the Constitution to send a message to the House in regard to any matter, and Constitution categorically says that if such a message is sent the House has to consider it as soon as possible. Article 175 (2) (b) of the Constitution of India gives the Governor power to dissolve the Legislative Assembly.

Late on Thursday night, Karnataka Governor Vajubhai Vala had asked Chief Minister Kumaraswamy to prove his majority in the House by Friday 1.30 pm. In his letter, he said that Kumaraswamy was sworn in after receiving support from the Congress, and that several Congress MLAs intimated him that they tendered their resignations.

“It is clear from the above that out of 117 members, which is the strength of the Coalition Government, if these members are to move away from the ruling coalition, the same casts a serious doubt on the confidence in the Government/Ministry led by you in the House.” He then asked the Chief Minister to prove his majority by 1.30 pm on Friday.

(With inputs from Priyanka Thirumurthy)

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