IN the ongoing political crisis in the state of Karnataka, the Supreme Court has ordered status quo be maintained with regard to the ten Members of Legislative Assembly (MLAs) and that neither the issue of resignation nor the issue of disqualification will be decided by the Speaker till the next date of hearing on July 16, 2019.
A three-judge bench comprising the Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi, Justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose after hearing the matter at some length arrived at the conclusion on July 12, 2019 that apart from the question of maintainability of the petition filed by rebel MLAs under Article 32 of the Constitution of India, the questions of substantial importance involving the provisions of Articles 164, 190, 361B and the provisions of the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution had arisen for consideration in this case.
The Court further noted that an incidental question that would arise was the kind and extent of the directions that should be issued by a constitutional court to another constitutional functionary, which in the present case happened to be the Speaker of the Assembly. Also to be considered would be the question whether in a situation where resignations by MLAs and disqualification proceedings are pending against the same MLAs, the Speaker is obligated under the Constitution to decide the disqualification issue in the first instance.
Appearing for the 10 rebel MLAs, who have tendered their resignations to the Speaker, and want them to be accepted by him, senior advocate Mukul Rohtagi submitted that the Speaker of Karnataka Legislative Assembly should be held liable for contempt if he did not decide on resignations tendered by MLAs. The Speaker was bound to comply with the court’s order, Rohtagi said.
On the other side, appearing for the Speaker, senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi submitted that the Speaker first had to decide the disqualification proceedings. He added that the court could not direct the Speaker to decide on disqualification proceedings in a particular manner and within a time frame. He also questioned the maintainability of petition filed under Article 32 of the Constitution of India since no fundamental rights of the petitioners (10 rebel MLAs) under Part III of the Constitution was violated.
Appearing for the Chief Minister of Karnataka H. D. Kumaraswamy, senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan submitted that the petition had not contained any averment justifying the petition under Article 32 of the Constitution. “What do averments made in the petition, such as administration has come to standstill, and delay on the part of Speaker is mala fide, have to do with Article 32 of the Constitution under which the petition has been filed?” Dhavan asked.
Dhavan also added that the Speaker had to conduct an enquiry to ascertain that the resignations were genuine and voluntary. The order by the court on July 11, 2019 could not have been passed on the basis of petition filed by rebel MLAs. The Speaker was doing his duty. He should get adequate time to decide on resignations of the MLAs, Dhavan said.
The Supreme Court had on July 11, 2019 had directed the Speaker of the Karnataka Legislative Assembly KR Ramesh Kumar to decide on the resignations tendered by the rebel MLAs forthwith. The Speaker, however, moved the apex court later in the day seeking a recall of the order as it had been passed ex-parte.