Ready to hear disqualified MLAs, take fresh call, K'taka Assembly speaker tells SC

New Delhi: The Karnataka Assembly Speaker told the Supreme Court Thursday that he has no difficulty in hearing the 17 MLAs who were disqualified by his predecessor, K R Ramesh Kumar, and take a "fresh call" on the issue.

Kumar had disqualified these 17 MLAs, leading to the fall of the Congress-JD(S) coalition government headed by the then chief minister H D Kumaraswamy.

Kumaraswamy had resigned after losing a trust vote, which paved the way for the BJP-led government in the state under B S Yediyurappa Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the office of the Karnataka Assembly Speaker, told a bench headed by Justice N V Ramana that under the scheme of Constitution, a lawmaker has a right to resign and speaker should accept it.

The current Assembly Speaker is V Hegde Kageri. "We have no difficulty in hearing them all (disqualified MLAs) and take a fresh call," Mehta told the bench, also comprising justices Sanjiv Khanna and Krishna Murari.

Mehta said that a lawmaker not only has a duty but also a right to resign as a member of the House. "Under the scheme of the Constitution, as I have read, a legislator has the right to resign. Except the contingency provided in Article 190(3), there is no room for resignation being rejected," he told the bench.

Article 190 (3) of the Constitution envisages that the Speaker or the Chairman of the Assembly has to only ascertain whether the resignation of a lawmaker is voluntary and genuine and if not, he will not accept such resignations.

The apex court is hearing a batch of petitions filed by the 17 MLAs challenging the then speaker's decision to disqualify them from the Assembly.

During the arguments, senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan, appearing for H D Kumaraswamy, raised a point before the bench that if disqualification application indicates that resignation tendered by an MLA is not pure, can the Speaker ignore it.

"Can the speaker ignore the fact that there is something wrong with the resignation?" he said, adding that the Speaker has the right to go into the motive behind the resignation.

Dhavan said that advocates representing these disqualified MLAs have contended that Speaker should accept the resignation mechanically and this is a "very strange argument".

He said if there is some material on the basis of which the order of Speaker disqualifying these MLAs is valid, then the court should not deal with the petitions.

Dealing with the arguments advanced by the petitioners that Speaker should not have gone into the motive behind their resignations, Dhavan said, "their entire case is about motive. Why should motive be not examined?" "What was your real motive? Did you act in bona fide? What if there was pressure on you to resign?," he said, adding that speaker has a right to examine the motive behind the resignation.

He said that speaker know it well as what is going on in the assembly and he has a right to look into the information received by him. "We are dealing with a case as to why you want to resign," he said, adding, "They expect the speaker to be like the three Gandhi monkeys".

Dhavan said that speaker has the right the examine whether a member has resigned simplicator or is it a resignation for coerce. He also argued that defection is the "single biggest evil" in elections and parliamentary process.

The arguments in the case remained inconclusive and would continue on Friday.

Some of the disqualified MLAs had Wednesday told the apex court that they have an "indefeasible right" to resign as members of the Assembly and the decision by the then Speaker to disqualify them smacks of "vengeance" and "mala fide". Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for some of the disqualified MLAs, had told the court that Kumar had "violated" the apex court order by deciding against them for allegedly defying the party whip.

The top court had stayed the proceeding pending before the Karnataka High Court on a separate plea challenging the Election Commission's notification deferring the by-polls to 15 Assembly seats there.

The EC had on September 26 told the top court that it would defer the upcoming by-polls to 15 Assembly constituencies in Karnataka, scheduled for October 21, till the apex court finally decides the pleas filed by the 17 disqualified MLAs.

It had issued notification deferring the by-polls and fixed November 11 as the new date for commencement of Model Code of Conduct in Karnataka.

 

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