#KarnatakaCrisis: Speaker free to decide on resignations, says Supreme Court
Karnataka's political crisis spilled to Supreme Court last week, and on Wednesday the CJI Ranjan Gogoi-led bench did a balancing act. Giving a respite to speaker KR Ramesh, SC said he can take a call on resignations of rebel MLAs whenever he wants to. The court also underlined that these MLAs can't be forced to attend the Assembly. Here's what went down.
The survival of the Congress-JD(S) coalition, which has HD Kumaraswamy at the helm, was threatened after 18 legislators resigned. After Ramesh didn't accept their resignations, these MLAs approached SC. On Tuesday, the court heard pleas of all three sides- Kumaraswamy, Ramesh, and 15 legislators. While MLAs argued their resignations should be accepted, Ramesh said he needs time to go through them thoroughly.
Notably, the bench, also including justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose, had reserved its verdict on Tuesday. "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 court said in today's judgment, but added that the Speaker has to inform the bench about the decision.
Further, the court also gave a little relief to the MLAs. Underscoring that it has to maintain "constitutional balance", SC said the rebel MLAs can't be "forced" to attend the state Assembly's proceedings. This means the top brass of both parties can't issue a whip to MLAs, which could bind them to participate in Thursday's floor test. Interestingly, the MLAs are staying in Mumbai.
After the judgment senior lawyer Mukul Rohatgi, who represented the MLAs, said, "The Court has said that the matter will be fully thrashed out at a later date." He also said the three-line whip issued against the rebel MLAs doesn't have any relevance now. "All 15 MLAs are given the liberty that may or may not go to the House tomorrow," he added.
Meanwhile, Ramesh, who is the only one who can accept the resignations, said, "I will take a decision that in no way will go contrary to the Constitution, the Court, and the Lokpal." To recall, the rebel MLAs had accused Ramesh, a Congress leader, of forgetting his constitutional duties. They claimed he was helping the coalition by sitting on their resignations.
While Kumaraswamy evaded a question on SC's verdict, BJP's BS Yeddyurappa, who has been demanding the former's resignation, said the coalition will not last long. "I welcome SC's decision, it's the victory of constitution&democracy, a moral victory for rebel MLAs. It's only an interim order, SC will decide powers of Speaker in future, (sic)" Yeddyurappa, whom Congress-JD(S) has accused of orchestrating the crisis, said.
With SC's verdict, the ball is again in the legislators' court, who have to take a call on their allegiance. Had their resignations been accepted, the strength of coalition would have fallen to 100, and the majority mark would have dropped to 105. Interestingly, BJP already has 105 members and the support of two independents. In case Kumaraswamy fails, BJP can easily form the government.