In a new twist in the Karnataka political stalemate, the Supreme Court on Friday ordered a status quo until Tuesday on a plea filed by 10 dissident MLAs of Congress and JD(S) seeking a direction to the Assembly Speaker to accept their resignation and not proceed with the applications for their disqualification.
A three-member bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and comprising Justices Aniruddha Bose and Deepak Gupta will again hear the matter on Tuesday.
The order on status quo was given after hearing counsels–Mukul Rohtagi for the rebel MLAs and Abishek Manu Singhvi for Speaker K R Ramesh Kumar.
The bench had on Thursday directed the Speaker to meet the rebel MLAs who were asked to give their resignations afresh in person. The speaker met them and took their resignations but did not take any decision saying he has to follow procedures and satisfy himself whether they were genuine and voluntary.
Rohatgi argued that the Speaker was answerable to the court, except under “certain circumstances”. “He may not respond under certain sections and provisions, he is entitled to exemption,” he submitted.
Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy’s counsel Rajeev Dhavan objected to the submissions of the rebel MLAs that the Speaker acted in a mala fide manner.
Singhvi contended that the rebel MLAs’ intention in tendering resignation was “something different, and it is to avoid disqualification”.
Talking to reporters outside the court, Singhvi said the bench agreed to consider whether courts can direct Speakers to decide such issues in a given time frame. “The court said that it is a weighty issue whether courts can direct Speakers to decide so and so in such and such time frame?” he said.
Singhvi said “Article 164 of the constitution was amended to say that if you are disqualified, you cannot hold any ministerial post or any other perk unless you are re-elected,” he said.
He said the court will consider arguments on whether MLAs can get around with anti-defection law by resigning.
Rohtagi had earlier said “We will ask the court to implement its order so that the Speaker takes a decision as soon as possible. If all MLAs appeared before him, gave affidavits and moved the Supreme Court maintaining that they want to resign, what further verification is required, I do not understand.”
Earlier in the day, the Speaker agreed to meet at 4 pm three of the five rebel Congress MLAs, who have tendered their resignations in the “prescribed” format.
Kumar last night had dismissed the MLAs’ charge of delaying a decision on the resignations to help the government. “I need to examine these resignations (of rebel MLAs) all night and ascertain if they are genuine. The Supreme Court has asked me to take a decision. I have video-graphed everything and I will send it to the Supreme Court,” said Kumar.
The 13-month old coalition government is starting a collapse following the resignation of 16 of the Congress and JD(S) MLAs who cited a range of issue from allegedly being sidelined to declined ministerial berth in the government.
Meanwhile, Karnataka Assembly session started today.