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Karnataka LIVE: Speaker Free to Decide on Resignations But 15 Rebel MLAs Can’t be Forced to Participate in Trust Vote Tomorrow, Says SC

Kumaraswamy 1

Karnataka LIVE:In a jolt to the Kumaraswamy government, the Supreme Court today said the 15 rebel Congress-JDS MLAs could not be forced to take part in the trust vote scheduled for tomorrow. The court also gave liberty to Speaker KR Ramesh to decide on the resignations of the MLAs, saying there was no deadline for him to take a call on the issue. The court decision capped intense arguments on Tuesday during which Kumaraswamy said the rebel MLAs are “hunting in a pack”, alleging their motive is to bring down his government, while the dissidents submitted that Speaker KR Ramesh Kumar wants to prop up a government which has lost majority.

If the resignations are accepted, the coalition would be reduced to a minority in the assembly and leave it poised on the brink of collapse in the climax of a crisis that began on July 6.

A bench led by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi reserved its verdict at the conclusion of a hearing that went on for a little more than three hours on Tuesday, punctuated by sharp exchanges between the judges and counsel for speaker KR Ramesh Kumar.

The speaker asked the court to exercise self-restraint and not issue interim orders on internal matters of the assembly; the bench questioned his reluctance to speedily dispose of the resignations.

In all, 16 MLAs — 13 from the Congress and three from JD(S) — have quit since July 7, pushing the coalition government to the brink of collapse. All but one are party to two petitions filed in the apex court. The defections will trigger a legal clause that disqualifies these MLAs, bringing the 224-member assembly’s strength down to 208 and giving the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) a majority in the House.

Barring the rebels, the ruling coalition has a strength of 100, excluding the speaker, who cannot vote unless there is a tie. Also, two independent MLAs have withdrawn support to the government. The BJP has the support of 105 MLAs and is expected to be backed by the independents. One additional member in the House is nominated.

The alliance, which was hastily cobbled together in May last year to prevent the BJP from coming to power in the only southern state it has governed, has been roiled by periodic dissent and open squabbling between the partners, which managed to win just two of the 28 Lok Sabha seats in Karnataka in the recent general elections. The BJP won 25.

Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who represented speaker Ramesh Kumar, asked the court not to give a judicial direction and asked it to vacate a July 12 status quo order to let the speaker decide finally on both the disqualification petitions and resignations. Singhvi said the constitutional scheme did not warrant judicial intervention in internal matters of the assembly.

This made the CJI take a dig at Singhvi: “Where were the questions of jurisdiction of this court when it appointed even a protem speaker? You didn’t say anything then because it suited you?”

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