Tribune News Service
New Delhi, July 11
Amid ongoing political drama in Karnataka, the Supreme Court on Thursday asked Assembly Speaker KR Ramesh Kumar to decide on resignations of 10 rebel MLAs of Congress and JD(S) forthwith and place his decision before it on Friday when the matter would be taken up again.
A three-judge Bench headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi asked the rebel MLAs to meet the assembly Speaker at 6 pm to convey to him their decision to resign.
As senior counsel Mukul Rohatgi, representing the rebel MLAs, submitted that the legislators—who were in Mumbai—needed security to enter their home state, the Bench asked Karnataka DGP to provide protection to them once they landed in Bengaluru.
As the news broke, the Karnataka speaker moved the Supreme Court seeking modification of its order. On behalf of Kumar, senior counsel Abhishek Manu Singhvi mentioned his plea for urgent hearing but the Bench said it had already passed the order and that it was for the Speaker to decide his course of action. It said Kumar’s plea would be taken up on Friday.
The rebel MLAs also requested the court to restrain speaker from proceeding with the application for their disqualification.
The Speaker had held on Tuesday that the resignations of eight out of 13 rebel MLAs were not in order. He insisted that rules permitted him to first decide on the plea seeking disqualification of rebel MLAs.
The 10 rebel MLAs are—Pratap Gouda Patil, Ramesh Jarkiholi, Byrati Basavaraj, BC Patil, ST Somashekhar, Arbail Shivaram Hebbar, Mahesh Kumathalli, K Gopalaiah, AH Vishwanath and Narayana Gowda.
Rohatgi said the rebel MLAs—now 15 in number—have resigned and that they wanted a fresh mandate but the Speaker was protecting the government, which was now in minority.
“We will take note of only ten MLAs who are before us,” said the Bench, referring to the 10 MLAs who have filed petitions against the speaker.
The HD Kumaraswamy-led JD(S)-Congress government in Karnataka has been facing a political crisis since July 6 when 10 Congress and three JD(S) MLAs submitted their resignation to the speaker’s office Another Congress MLA R Roshan Baig submitted his resignation to the speaker on Tuesday.
In the in 224-member Karnataka Assembly, the JD(S)-Congress coalition has 116 MLAs (Congress-78, JD(S)-37 and BSP-1), besides the Speaker. With the support of two independents, who resigned on July 8, the BJP has 107 MLAs in the House, where the magic figure is 113. If the resignations of the 15 rebel MLAs are accepted, the ruling coalition’s tally will be reduced to 101. The speaker can vote only if there is a tie.
Speaker Ramesh Kumar meanwhile denied allegations of procrastination. In a press conference on Thursday evening, he said he was “hurt” at being accused of delaying the process.
“I felt hurt when I saw some news that I am delaying the process. Governor informed me on 6th. I was in office till then and later I left for personal work. Before that no MLAs informed that they were coming to meet me,” he said at the press briefing. “On July 6, I was in my chamber till 1.30 pm. The MLAs came there at 2 pm, they didn't even take prior appointment. So, it's untrue that I ran away because they were coming.”
He said he would to decide if the resignations by ruling coalition MLAs were voluntary and genuine.
Karnataka Legislature Rules says intended resignation should be "in perfect format," he told reporters after meeting the disgruntled legislators.
"Unfortunately, eight of the 13 letters that reached my office (last week) were not in the format," he said.
Kumar also insisted that he was neither responsible for the current political situation nor its outcome.
"MLAs have submitted resignation in right format now. I will have to examine whether resignations are voluntary and genuine," he added.
Kumar said he had earlier informed the legislators that if they are so intent to resign, they should resubmit their resignations in the prescribed form.
The top court earlier asked the Speaker to decide "forthwith" on Thursday about the resignation of 10 rebel Congress-JD(S) coalition MLAs, allowing them to meet him at 6 pm.
A Bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said the decision taken by the Speaker has to be intimated on Friday when the court takes up the matter again.
The resignation of 16 MLAs (13 from Congress and three from JDS) has pushed the coalition government to the brink of collapse.
Two independent MLAs have also withdrawn support to the coalition government. With agencies