Karnataka Political crisis: Kumaraswamy Seeks Trust Vote; SC Directs Speaker to Maintain Status Quo.

Pramesh Jain

In a breather for the coalition government  JD(S)-Congress government in Karnataka, the Assembly Speaker was restrained by the Supreme Court till Tuesday from deciding on both the resignation and disqualification of rebel MLAs,as Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy in a surprise move Friday announced he would seek a trust vote.

As Karnataka is headed for a prolonged political uncertainty,BJP sources said the party too has decided to move its MLAs to a resort near Bengaluru amid fears of reverse poaching by the ruling combine after Kumaraswamy’s announcement. The JD(S) MLAs have been also put up in a resort near Bengaluru.
The court yesterday directed the Speaker to take a decision “forthwith” on the resignation of the 10 rebel Congress and JD(S) MLAs but Speaker K R Ramesh Kumar later said more time is required for a decision.The Congress had also initiated disqualification proceedings against its rebel MLAs. In all, 16 Congress and JD(S) MLAs have submitted their resignations.
Karnataka chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy, at the centre of a week’s worth of drama and uncertainty for the coalition Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) government that he heads, said on Friday that he would seek a trust vote.
On the first day of the monsoon session of the Karnataka legislative assembly, Kumaraswamy sought a specific time from the speaker to prove his government’s majority.I am ready for everything,I am not here to stick to power,Kumaraswamy said. Speaker K.R.Ramesh Kumar said a slot will be allotted for moving the trust motion whenever the chief minister preferred to do so.
His announcement came within minutes of the Supreme Court ordering that the status quo on resignations by rebel MLAs and their disqualification proceedings be maintained by the speaker.
Hearing a plea by ten MLAs of the Congress and JD(S) who had alleged that speaker Ramesh Kumar had been deliberately delaying the acceptance of their resignations,the Supreme Court had, on Thursday,given an unusual direction to the speaker to decide on the resignations of all 16 MLAs within the day itself.
Ramesh Kumar,however,had with held his decision,saying that he was not obligated to anyone and moved the Supreme Court seeking a recall of its order, citing that he needed to make sure that all the resignations were voluntary.
Fifteen MLAs had resigned over the course of four days starting last Friday and set forth a chain of events which has once again made the position of Karnataka’s coalition government precarious.Accused of horse-trading and engineering the crisis, the Bharatiya Janata Party in the state has repeatedly alleged that the Kumaraswamy government no longer has the majority in the parliament, as a result of the resignations.
“CJI Pulls Speaker KR.Ramesh Kumar”.
Does Speaker Ramesh Kumar not want SupremeCourt to intervene? : CJI.
Is Speaker Ramesh Kumar trying to challenge SupremeCourt’s authority? : CJI
On Friday, a bench of Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose said that the case involves issues of substantial importance involving Articles 190 and 361 of the constitution.Article 190 deals with the disqualification of a legislator or his or her resignation,while Article 361 guarantees that certain position holders are not answerable to the court.
The apex court also said that it must deliberate on whether an assembly speaker must decide on disqualification proceedings before accepting the MLAs resignations at all.
The courtroom saw sufficient mudslinging by high-profile Senior Counsel lawyers representing the equally significant parties.While Mukul Rohatgi continued from Thursday on behalf of the rebel MLAs,Rajeev Dhavan represented chief minister Kumaraswamy and Abhishek Manu Singhvi,Speaker Ramesh Kumar.
While Rohatgi highlighted that the speaker’s role in the house was being extended unduly by Ramesh Kumar to manipulate the situation,Singhvi held that the BJP could easily invite these MLAs should it succeed in forming a government in the state, based on their resignations. Singhvi also held that the MLAs were keen on resigning simply to escape disqualification.
In the course of his submissions,Rohatgi also claimed that speaker Ramesh Kumar had allegedly asked rebel MLAs to “go to hell” and that eight MLAs had submitted their resignations before the process of disqualification had begun.
Faced with Singhvi’s dogged insistence on the speaker’s necessity of verifying resignations within an unspecified time frame,CJI Gogoi asked him,Is it your submission that the Supreme Court cannot exercise its jurisdiction? As Supreme Court should not intervene? Singhvi replied that it was not.
Questioning the basis on which the Supreme Court passed an ex parte order on Thursday directing the speaker to decide on the resignations of the rebel MLAs from the assembly within a few hours after 6 pm on Thursday,Dhavan drew the attention of the bench to the writ petition filed by the rebel MLAs (Pratap Gouda Patil and others vs State of Karnataka and others), and its “overly political statements.
Senior Counsel Rajeev Dhawan underlined the sentence in which the rebel MLAs claimed that the chief minister no longer commands a majority in the Karnataka legislative assembly.He also invited the bench’s attention to the sentence in which they claimed that the administration has come to a standstill and maladministration is writ large.The MLAs then claimed that the government had been rocked by various scandals,chief among them were the IMA Ponzi scam,JSW land scam,and that the ruling coalition had been rocked by inner contradictions and was never stable. Dhavan then referred to their allegation that the speaker, by not accepting their resignations, acted in a malafide manner.
Dhavan asked the bench:
In the face of such allegations,would you not hear the Speaker and the Chief Minister, before issuing a direction to decide their resignations from the assembly?.
He questioned the basis on which the court had to intervene on Thursday, without hearing the chief minister and the speaker.
In light of the allegations levelled against the speaker and chief minister, senior counsel Rajeev Dhavan said the Supreme Court must first hear them before issuing an order.
“Mandate defied”
Dhavan then read out paragraph 2(1)(a) of the Tenth Schedule to the Constitution, in which a member voluntarily giving up membership of the political party on whose symbol he was elected to the assembly is cited as a ground for disqualification. By saying “we resign”, the rebel MLAs have chosen to defy the mandate which they received from the electorate, Dhavan said.Therefore,it is the responsibility of the speaker to examine whether Paragraph 2(1)(a) of the Tenth Schedule stands violated, when read with the proviso to Article 190 (3)(b), he said.
Citing the Supreme Court’s constitution bench’s judgment in Kihoto Hollohan v Zachillhu and Others, (1992),Dhavan said it had reposed faith in the office of the speaker.Issuing the judgment,then M.N. Venkatachalliah said.
It is inappropriate to express distrust in the high office of the speaker,merely because some of the speakers are alleged,or even found to have discharged their functions not in keeping with the great traditions of that high office.The Robes of the Speaker do change and elevate the man inside.”
Therefore, when the speaker says he would require time to read and decide the rebel MLAs.resignations, he says so with great responsibility, Dhavan suggested. The ex parte order could not have been passed on Thursday on the basis of the overtly political arguments of the writ petition, Dhavan said.
The senior counsel said the rebel MLAs wanted the court to declare that the speaker’s role is that of a post office, while deciding their resignations from the assembly, and that the proviso to Article 190(3) (b) demands mechanical compliance.Citing case law, Dhavan said judicial review of the speaker’s decisions is limited only to those cases where such decisions suffered from the vice of perversity.
Several corruption allegations against the state government have been levelled in the plea of the rebel MLAs while securing a judicial order, Dhavan said. One of the rebel MLAs was involved in a Ponzy scam for which the government is being accused, he added.
Speaker has the responsibility to satisfy himself that resignations were voluntary… The Supreme Court order was passed without hearing the other side, what can the speaker do in such a situation,” said Dhavan.
Earlier senior counsel, Abhishek Manu Singhvi,arguing for the Karnataka assembly Ramesh Kumar,submitted that the speaker’s decisions on resignations are not automatic.Singhvi drew the attention of the bench to Article 164 (IB),according to which a member of the legislative assembly who is disqualified from being a member of that house under paragraph 2 of the Tenth Schedule shall also be disqualified to be appointed as a minister under clause (1) of Article 164,which enables appointment of other ministers by the governor on the advice of the chief minister. It commences from the date of disqualification till the date on which the term of his/her office as a member of the house would expire, or where he or she contests any election,till the date on which he is declared elected,whichever is earlier.
He asked,Why shall one resign from the assembly, if the consequences of resignation and disqualification are the same? By resigning, the rebel MLAs want to avoid disqualification on the ground of defections, which would deprive them of being appointed as ministers (under Article 164(1) or appointed on remunerative political posts (under Article 361B) within the term of the present assembly, Singhvi explained.
Reading from the statement of objects and reasons of the 91st Constitution Amendment Act in 2004, he said, the intention of parliament in enacting it was very clear: that members who suffered disqualification on the ground of defection should not be appointed as ministers or to remunerative political posts, as a reward. By resigning from the assembly prior to their disqualification, such members seek to avoid the rigours of the 91st amendment, he observed.
Senior counsel Mukul Rohatgi, representing the ten rebel MLAs, alleged that the speaker was riding two horses, by questioning the authority of the Supreme Court to issue directions to him, and by claiming that he is answerable only to the public.He claimed that the speaker’s duty to decide their resignations from the assembly has nothing to do with his duties under the Tenth Schedule.Asking the bench to issue a contempt notice to the speaker for defying its directions, Rohatgi said the speaker wants to keep their resignations pending, so that they become infructuous after their disqualification.He also alleged that the speaker was adopting double standards on the question of not deciding their resignations, before he considers the disqualification petitions against them.
Rohatgi alleged that the speaker has not decided on the resignations of the lawmakers and the idea behind keeping the issue alive and pending was to bind them with the party whip.
“In view of the weighty issues that have arisen, we are of the view that the matter be considered by us on Tuesday.We are of the view that the status quo as of today with regard to the prevailing situation be maintained. Neither the issue of resignation nor that of disqualification be decided till Tuesday,”the bench said.
On Thursday, the top court asked the speaker to decide “forthwith” the issue of the resignation of 10 rebel MLAs, allowing them to meet him in Bengaluru at 6 pm.
It also directed the Karnataka director general of police to provide protection to the rebel MLAs from Bengaluru airport to the Assembly after their arrival from Mumbai.
The speaker, through his counsel,also moved the apex court for modification of the direction asking him to decide the issue of the resignation in the course of the day.
The 10 rebel MLAs moved the apex court alleging that the speaker was not accepting their resignations.
On Friday morning, the rebel MLAs returned to their home for the past week, the Renaissance Mumbai Convention Centre Hotel, after meeting the speaker on the evening before. Scenes of great drama had unfolded outside the hotel on July 10 when Congress leaders D.K. Shivakumar and Murli Deora were detained after not being allowed inside the hotel.
The speaker, who had rejected several resignation letters because they were not in the current format, has assigned a 4 pm appointment time for three of the five MLAs whose letters were deemed to have been in the correct format.
It is alleged that Former chief minister Siddaramaiah has complained to Chief Minister about the irregularities happened in fund allotment in developing the constituencies and works not happened and misuse of about 3,000 Crore rupees fund has been reported from Munirathna of Rajajeshwarinagar,Somashekar of Yeshwanthpur and Byrathi Basavaraj of KR Puram constituency they are planning to reopen the file of those rebel MLAs and teach them a lesson by sending to jail.Experts said if they would have not resigned then the coalition government would have saved them with the 3,000 crore scam as they have resigned they are using all tactics to threaten them to take the resignation back this is the plan is going on by the former chief minister to teach a lesson to his close aides who brought them up in the party as they will ask the IGP, of ACB,Hemanth Nimbalkar who has been posted on Wednesday by the Karnataka state government replacing Chandrashekar to his place in CID.Hemanth Nimbalkar is husband of Khanapur MLA,Dr.Anjali Nimbalkar as sources said that She was also in the race of tendering resignation as she also unhappy with the coalition government.
Meanwhile, BJP’s Karnataka chief B.S. Yeddyurappa said that his party has issued a whip to all MLAs to attend every day of the assembly until the end of the 11-day monsoon session. While the BJP hopes to stake claim in forming the government, Kumaraswamy has maintained that all is well within the coalition’s ranks. On Thursday night as well, the chief minister had sought to downplay claims of his government failing, on Twitter.
“BJP has black sheep in their party, says Congress leader Siddaramaiah”
Former Karnataka CM and Congress leader Siddaramaiah, in Bengaluru, said, “We are confident that is why we are moving vote of confidence motion. BJP is afraid because they know there are black sheep in their party.He is confident that the JD(S)-Congress will win a vote of confidence in the Assembly.I do not want to disclose but I am confident that we will win the vote of confidence motion,” he said referring to Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy’s statement in the House that he was ready to face a floor test.
Rahul Gandhi, on political developments in Karnataka, said, “BJP uses money to bring down state governments. They have been doing that. We saw that in the North east as well.
Reacting to the development, BJP leader and former deputy chief minister K S Eshwarappa said Friday’s session was meant for condolences but the chief minister chose to speak about seeking trust vote.The chief minister should have spoken paying condolences to the departed souls. He has to think how justified is it to seek trust vote in the middle of paying tributes,” Eshwarappa said.
Meanwhile,both the Congress and the BJP have decided to move their legislators to different hotels in the city after the Assembly proceedings on Friday.
Congress MLAs will be lodged at Clarks Exotica Convention Resorts while those of the BJP will stay at Ramada Hotel in Bengaluru. The BJP has booked 30 rooms for two days at the facility.
Meanwhile CM Kumaraswamy and DK Shivakumar exudes confidence to pacify Rebel MLAs .
The MLAs who have filed the petition are Pratap Gouda Patil, Ramesh Jarkiholi, Byrati Basavaraj,B C Patil, S T Somashekhar,Arbail Shivaram Hebbar, Mahesh Kumathalli,K Gopalaiah,A H Vishwanath and Narayana Gowda.
In all, 16 MLAs (13 from Congress and three from JD-S) have quit pushing the coalition government to the brink of collapse. Two independent MLAs have also withdrawn support to the 13-month-old coalition government.
Meanwhile the Commissioner of Police, Alok Kumar has withdrawn the Section 144 Imposed in and around 2KM radius of Vidhana Soudha in view of ongoing political developments from 11th to 14th July has been withdrawn.