The Supreme Court (SC) on Wednesday upheld the former Karnataka Assembly Speaker, K. R. Ramesh Kumar’s order disqualifying 17 Karnataka MLAs from Congress and JD(S), but it struck down the period of disqualification.
Thus, the order allows all the disqualified MLAs to contest in the upcoming bypolls. The former speaker had said in his order that the MLAs cannot contest elections until the term of the current assembly ends in 2023.
The three-judge bench of the Supreme Court said in its verdict, "We are of the opinion that scope of duty under Article 193 has been discussed, not making any observation regarding the merits of disqualification. As such, there is no doubt that disqualification relates to date when act takes place. The speaker in the exercise of powers does not have the power to indicate the period for which a person is barred from contesting an election."
"We uphold the order of speaker of disqualification. But strike out the period of disqualification," the Bench added.
The Supreme Court also said that the speaker acts as a "quasi-judicial authority" and that the scope of the assembly speaker's inquiry is limited to examine whether the resignation of MLAs was voluntary or not.
The Court has allowed the 17 MLAs to contest in the upcoming bypolls but upheld their disqualification by the former Karnataka assembly speaker.
The 17 disqualified Karnataka MLAs belonging to Congress and JD(S) had filed petitions after former Karnataka Assembly Speaker, K. R. Ramesh Kumar passed an order to disqualify them ahead of the trust vote in July.
A three-judge bench of Justices N. V. Ramana, Sanjiv Khanna and Krishna Murari had on October 25 reserved its verdict on the petitions filed by these disqualified MLAs.
Bypolls to 15 out of 17 Karnataka assembly seats, which became vacant following the disqualification of MLAs, are scheduled on December 5.
The Election Commission announced the poll schedule for only 15 of the 17 constituencies. It did not announce bypolls in Maski and Rajarajeshwari segments as petitions are pending in Karnataka High Court relating to the 2018 assembly election in the state.
However, the disqualified MLAs recently approached the Supreme Court and asked it to direct Election Commission to postpone the assembly bypolls for the 15 seats till the verdict is pronounced.
Some of the disqualified MLAs argued in Supreme Court that they had an "indefeasible right" to resign as members of the assembly and criticised the speaker's decision to disqualify them.
The Counsel who appeared for Karnataka Congress during the hearing, said the matter needed to be referred to Constitution Bench as it is a matter of "grave constitutional importance".
The incumbent Karnataka Assembly Speaker, V. Hegde Kageri had earlier told the Supreme Court that he has no difficulty in hearing these 17 MLAs and take a "fresh call" on the issue.
The Solicitor General, Tushar Mehta, appearing for the office of the Karnataka Assembly speaker, had submitted that under the scheme of Constitution, a lawmaker has a right to resign and the speaker should accept it.
The Congress had earlier exuded confidence that the judgment will be in its favour. Dinesh Gundu Rao, President of Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) said that his party is sure that the judgment will be in its favour and claimed many MLAs from the BJP are fed up of the present government as well.
Tags : #Supreme Court of India #Karnataka Government