Karnataka political crisis: SC directs MLAs to appear before Speaker

New Delhi, Jul 11:

The Supreme Court on July 11 directed Karnataka Assembly Speaker K.R. Ramesh Kumar to meet 10 Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) MLAs at 6 p.m. and take a decision “forthwith or in the course of the day” if they inform him about their intention to resign.

A Bench led by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi fixed a specific time (6 p.m.) for the meeting after senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, for the 10 MLAs, said the Speaker was “in the habit of making himself scarce” whenever the spectre of MLAs wishing to resign dawned in the horizon.

“On July 6, when the MLAs came to his office with their resignation letters, the Speaker slipped out of his office through the back door and made himself scarce”. Mr. Rohatgi, assisted by advocate Subhranshu Padhi, said the Karnataka political theatre was in a “startling state of affairs” in which MLAs wanted to voluntarily resign, but the Speaker “is remiss in doing what he is supposed to do, that is, accept their resignation”.

“And tomorrow (July 12), the Karnataka Assembly session starts. A whip has been issued by their parties, if they violate the whip, they face disqualification… The MLAs want to resign. They do not have to give a reason for their resignation. All they need is a formal acceptance by the Speaker of their resignation…

They do not want to defect, they want to go back to the people,” Mr. Rohatgi submitted. Listing the case for July 12, the Bench asked the 10 MLAs to appear before the Speaker at 6 p.m. and requested the latter “to grant them an audience at the same time”.

The petitioner MLAs, if they so wished, should intimate the Speaker of their resignation and the Speaker should take a decision “forthwith or in the course of the day”, the court ordered. The Bench said the Speaker’s decision should be informed to the Supreme Court on July 12.

The court further, on a request made by Mr. Rohatgi, ordered the Karnataka DGP to grant the 10 MLAs police protection when they met the Speaker.

The battle for power in Karnataka reached the Supreme Court on July 9 when the Congress and JD(S) MLAs jointly accused the H.D. Kumaraswamy coalition government of scams and maladministration, while blaming the Speaker for delaying the acceptance of their resignation in a bid to prolong the life of the ruling dispensation.

The MLAs said they were fed up with the maladministration and inner contradictions within the ruling coalition. Their decision to resign was in consultation with their conscience. The Speaker’s ploy to retard their resignation process was anti-democratic and a violation of the basic structure of the Constitution.

The petition was filed by Pratap Gouda Patil, Ramesh Jarkhiholi, Byrati Basavaraj, B.C. Patil, S.T. Somashekar, Arbail Sivaram Hebbar, Mahesh Kumathalli, K. Gopalaiah, H.D.Vishwanath and Narayan Gowda. Chief Minister Kumaraswamy, the Speaker and the Centre have been made parties along with the State of Karnataka through its Chief Secretary.

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