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A major blow for Kumaraswamy government

HD Kumarswamy, Supreme Court,Karnataka Crisis,Karnataka Politics,Karnataka Political Crisis,Karnataka Drama,HearingThe Supreme Court on Wednesday said the 16 rebel Congress-JD(S) MLAs could not be forced to take part in the trust vote scheduled for Thursday. The court also gave liberty to Speaker KR Ramesh to decide on the resignations of the MLAs. The court said that there was no deadline for him to take a call on the issue. The Supreme Court’s decision is seen as major blow for the Kumaraswamy government. If the resignations are accepted, the coalition would be reduced to a minority in the assembly and leave it poised on the brink of collapse in the climax of a crisis that began on July 6. But still, all is not well for the Kumaraswamy government as according to the Supreme Court’s order, the MLAs cannot be forced to participate in tomorrow’s trust vote. In the event that all the 16 MLAs remain absent from the Assembly tomorrow, the ruling Congress-JD(S) government in all likelihood will topple.

Following the Supreme Court’s judgement, debates are being waged on whether the rebel MLAs will be disqualified ahead of the trust vote. According to experts, disqualifications seem unlikely given the limited time frame. Additionally, the Speaker cannot decide to disqualify the MLAs on the singular ground of the MLAs violating the party whips. Hence, the only hope for the Congress-JD(S) is to appease the rebel MLAs.

To a question posed on the BJP‘s next course of action in case the Speaker decides to disqualify the 16 MLAs, BS Yeddyurappa says “We will wait and see.”  Yeddyurappa lauded the Supreme Court verdict. He said, “All 16 MLAs who have resigned cannot be issued any whip and there is no condition to attend the Vidhan Sabha. That means Kumaraswamy will no longer have the mandate. Tomorrow he is going to go. I welcome the Supreme Court verdict, it is a victory of Constitution and democracy. It is a moral victory of MLAs.”

On the other hand, Karnataka Speaker KR Ramesh welcomed the top court’s order in the matter. He said, “I will not delay, will work as per my constitutional role.” Meanwhile, Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy is seen offering prayers at Sri Sringeri Shankara Mutt in Shankarapuram.

Former Karnataka CM Jagadish Shettar reiterating that the Supreme Court has observed that there is no time frame for the Speaker to take a call on the rebel MLAs. He said, “I hope the Speaker will decide on the resignations within a day or two.” Shettar also urged Kumaraswamy to resign as the Chief Minister. “There is anarchy in the state because of HD Kumaraswamy, he should resign immediately after this verdict and not wait for the trust vote.” BJP’s GVL Narsimha Rao also hailed SC’s verdict in the case.  He said, “SC has given the relief to the MLAs they were hoping for. The many whips issued by the Congress-JD(S) will not affect the MLAs”

CJI Ranjan Gogoi read the order in the matter of the resignations of the rebel Congress-JD(S) MLAs.  He said, “Speaker has been given liberty to decide on resignation by 16 MLAs within any time frame.”

Another point of contention that was raised in the hearing was the timing of the resignation and the procedure followed by the 16 MLAs. All the sides debated over whether its important if the disqualification petition came first or the resignations. Lawyer Abhishek Singhvi, appearing for the Speaker, said that even if disqualification occurs months later, it has to be counted on the date when the act which resulted in disqualification occurred”. In this case, Singhvi qualified the resignation as the act which justified the disqualification petition filed by the ruling parties in Karnataka. Singhvi was replying to the rebel MLAs argument which stated that the disqualification and the resignation were filed together.

The rebel MLAs, however, contested the Speaker’s argument and said that he has not a valid reason for disqualification. “Disqualification proceedings are only an attempt to stall the resignation,” senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi who is representing the Congress-JD(S) MLAs said.

CM Kumaraswamy, the Karnataka Speaker KR Ramesh and the rebel MLAs put up a formidable fight in yesterday’s hearing arguing on the viability of disqualification and resignations in this case. The Speaker contested that the rebel MLAs should be disqualified and that resignations are not a way of escaping disqualification.

Speaker KR Ramesh in yesterday’s hearing argued that being a constitutional functionary he cannot be directed to first decide on the resignations of the MLAs over their disqualification. The Supreme Court bench headed by CJI Ranjan Gogoi responded by saying that it was not restraining the Speaker from deciding the disqualification but was only asking him to ascertain whether the rebel MLAs voluntarily resigned.

A bench led by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi reserved its verdict at the conclusion of a hearing that went on for a little more than three hours on Tuesday, punctuated by sharp exchanges between the judges and counsel for speaker KR Ramesh Kumar.

The speaker asked the court to exercise self-restraint and not issue interim orders on internal matters of the assembly. The bench had questioned his reluctance to speedily dispose of the resignations.

It is remarkable that 16 MLAs, 13 from the Congress and three from JD(S), have quit since July 7, pushing the coalition government to the brink of collapse. The defections will trigger a legal clause that disqualifies these MLAs, bringing the 224-member assembly’s strength down to 208 and giving the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) a majority in the House.

The ruling coalition government has a strength of 100, excluding the rebels. The speaker cannot vote unless there is a tie. Also, two independent MLAs have withdrawn support to the government. The BJP has the support of 105 MLAs and is expected to be backed by the independents. One additional member in the House is nominated.

The alliance, which was hastily cobbled together in May last year to prevent the BJP from coming to power in the only southern state it has governed, has been roiled by periodic dissent and open squabbling between the partners. The Congress-JD(S) managed to win just two of the 28 Lok Sabha seats in Karnataka in the recent general elections. The BJP won 25 seats in the general elections.

Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who represented speaker Ramesh Kumar, asked the court not to give a judicial direction and asked it to vacate a July 12 status quo order to let the speaker decide finally on both the disqualification petitions and resignations. Singhvi said the constitutional scheme did not warrant judicial intervention in internal matters of the assembly.

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