Karnataka: Before trust vote, SC says Speaker free to decide fate of rebels

New Delhi: On the eve of the trust vote in Karnataka Assembly, the Supreme Court on Wednesday decided that the Karnataka Speaker was free to decide on the status of several Congress and JD(S) MLAs whose resignations threaten their government. 

In a balanced verdict, the top court also said that rebel Karnataka MLAs — who are camping in Mumbai — could not be compelled to participate in the trust vote on Thursday. 

This means the government cannot use whips to force dissident lawmakers to be in the Assembly for the vote.

Dissidents had gone to the top court after Speaker K R Ramesh Kumar had refused to accept the resignations in a hurry.

Ramesh Kumar had told the court that many rebel lawmakers faced disqualification and that he needed time to examine their resignation letters. He also said he needed to find out whether the resignations were coerced.

The Supreme Court on Wednesday said: “The discretion of the Speaker should not be fettered by any direction from the court. The Speaker can decide on the resignations as and when he feels appropriate.” The apex court added that his decision should be submitted to the court.

The court said: “We have to maintain constitutional balance.”

Karnataka BJP chief B S Yeddyurappa welcomed the court order and asserted that it was a “moral victory” for the rebel MLAs.

“When there is no majority, he (chief minister) will automatically resign tomorrow,” he said. The BJP president also emphasised that the Speaker has been directed to take a decision at the earliest and submit his order to the Supreme Court.

“I welcome the Supreme Court decision. It is a victory of the Constitution and democracy. It is a moral victory for rebel MLAs. “It is only an interim order and in the future, the SC will decide the power of the speaker. It will set a new trend in the parliamentary democracy,” Yeddyurappa said.

Karnataka Assembly Speaker Ramesh Kumar said he would conduct himself responsibly in accordance with the principles of the Constitution.

“With utmost humility I welcome and respect the Supreme Court decision,” Kumar said soon after the apex court pronounced its order on the issue of resignations of the lawmakers that has pushed the state into political turmoil.

“The SC has put extra burden on me, I will conduct myself responsibly in accordance with constitutional principle,” he told reporters.

On Tuesday, the rebels had argued in court that their resignations must be accepted by the Speaker, and they could not be “forced to attend the assembly”.

Sixteen legislators of the JD(S)-Congress coalition and two independent lawmakers have resigned over the past two weeks.

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