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Published On: Fri, Jul 12th, 2019

CM Kumaraswamy to Move Trust Motion in Assembly

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r9rpeoco_supreme-court-_625x300_06_May_19NEW DELHI : In a breather for the beleaguered Janata Dal (Secular)-Congress coalition in Karnataka, the Supreme Court restrained Assembly Speaker KR Ramesh Kumar till Tuesday from deciding on both the resignation and disqualification of rebel MLAs as Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy, in a surprise move on Friday, announced that he would seek a trust vote.
As Karnataka headed for a period of prolonged political uncertainty, the BJP 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 apex court on Thursday had directed Kumar to take a decision “forthwith” on the resignation of the 10 rebel Congress and JD(S) MLAs. However, Kumar later said he would require more time to come to a decision.In all, 16 Congress and JD(S) MLAs have submitted their resignations.

A Supreme Court bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, Justice Deepak Gupta and Justice Aniruddha Bose on Friday directed the maintenance of status quo by the Karnataka assembly speaker on the disqualification/resignation of rebel Congress and Janata Dal (S) MLAs, adjourning the case to July 16. The bench agreed with senior counsel Rajeev Dhavan, representing Karnataka chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy, that the substantial questions involved in the case require detailed hearing.

Dhavan 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.
“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. The Congress had also initiated disqualification proceedings against its rebel MLAs. The ruling coalition’s total strength is 116 – the Congress with 78, the JDS with 37 and the BSP with a single lawmaker, besides the Speaker.
With the support of the two independents, who resigned on Monday, the BJP has 107 MLAs in the 224-member House, where the half-way mark is 113. If the resignations of the 16 MLAs are accepted, the coalition’s tally will be reduced to 100.

Citing “weighty issues that have arisen”, an apex court bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose said the matter will be considered on July 16 and status quo as of Friday should be maintained.

The bench specifically mentioned in the order that the Speaker would not decide on the issue of the resignation or the disqualification of the rebel MLAs to enable the court to judge the larger issues raised during the hearing of the matter.
The bench noted in its order that the issue of maintainability of the rebel MLAs’ petition under Article 32 of the Constitution was raised by the speaker and Kumaraswamy.
As his government teetered on the brink, Kumaraswamy announced he would seek a trust vote and sought time from the Speaker. The surprise announcement from the embattled chief minister came in the state Assembly, which commenced its 11-day session in the backdrop of the resignation of the 16 ruling coalition MLAs, which now threatens the government’s survival.
“The ongoing political developments, this confusion has been created due to the action of some MLAs. I am ready for everything. I am not here to stick on to power,” he said. Kumar said a slot would be allotted whenever the chief minister opted for it. “The chief minister has spoken his mind that he would not cling to power amid the confusion. He said he will seek the trust of the House,” he said.

“Whenever he tells me that he wants to move the trust motion, the very next day I will put it in the business of the day,” he added. After the developments of the day, resort politics came to the fore again as all three key players — the Congress, JDS and and opposition BJP — herded their MLAs in luxury stays to keep their flock intact.

While the JDS chose the serene surroundings of Nandi Hill on the outskirts of Bengaluru, its partner Congress opted for a hotel in the state capital, sources in the parties saidThe BJP MLAs, meanwhile, are staying in a resort near Yelahanka and an ultra-luxury hotel.

While several rebel MLAs have been staying in a Mumbai hotel since their resignations last Saturday, the Congress and JDS are keen to avoid any further erosion in their strength. The Congress and BJP MLAs in January were shifted to resorts to avoid poaching following a brief spell of instablity triggered by two independent MLAs withdrawing their support to the government.

This time, the lush green resort spread over 275 acres on the foothills of Nandi Hill overlooking a lake bustled with activity as over 30 MLAs of the JDS have been accommodated there for the past three days. “We have booked 34 rooms there. Except for the chief minister and a few others, about 30 MLAs are staying there,” said a senior JDS functionary.
The BJP is concerned that the ruling side could make an attempt to poach its MLAs although former chief minister and senior leader Siddaramaiah on Friday ruled out any such move.
“They (Congress and JDS) are trying to buy time to make some arrangements to keep the government afloat, despite knowing that its end has come. They are working on some equations, which I doubt will work,” said BJP spokesperson S Prakash.

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.
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.
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, acte

Meanwhile, Amid questions about the Karnataka coalition’s survival, Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy declared today that he would seek a trust vote on the floor of the house and asked the Speaker to “fix a time”. In preparation for the test of strength, ruling allies Congress and Janata Dal Secular and rival BJP have arranged to move their lawmakers to resorts to sequester them from “poaching” attempts.
“I have decided to seek trust vote, please fix time for it,” Mr Kumaraswamy said as the budget session began in the Vidhana Souda or state assembly this morning.”I am ready for everything, I am not here to stick to power,” added the Chief Minister, who had ruled out his resignation on Thursday.
The Congress-JDS coalition, which has been struggling to keep its flock intact since it came to power in May last year, is facing a collapse after 18 resignations over the last week.
If the resignations are accepted, the ruling coalition will slip below the half-way mark and rival BJP will have a majority.The dissidents have been staying at a five-star hotel in Mumbai. The Congress has decided to move its lawmakers to Clarks Exotica Conventions Resorts in Bengaluru. JDS lawmakers are already staying at two resorts.The BJP has picked three resorts as there isn’t enough room in one.
The coalition today won a reprieve till Tuesday as the Supreme Court said there would be no decision on the resignations until then.The court ruled after hour-long arguments involving lawyers representing the rebel lawmakers, Speaker KR Ramesh Kumar and Chief Minister Kumaraswamy.
The Speaker told the court that he had not decided on the resignation letters of the dissidents, some of whom met him last evening. Many of them faced disqualification, he said.The court has said until Tuesday, the Speaker cannot disqualify any legislator, nor accept any resignation.
“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,” said the court.

Ten lawmakers met the Speaker last evening with blank papers and wrote their resignations again; their last letter was not in order, Mr Kumar said.(With Agency Inputs).

 

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