Monday, 30th October 2017

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Kumaraswamy seeks trust vote

The Supreme Court asks for status quo in the state

By PTI in Bangalore
  • Published 12.07.19, 3:40 PM
  • Updated 12.07.19, 3:40 PM
  • 4 mins read
  •  
HD Kumaraswamy (PTI file photo)

Karnataka chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy on Friday announced that he would seek a trust vote and sought time from Assembly Speaker K.R. Ramesh Kumar as the coalition government in the state teetered on the brink of collapse.

The surprise announcement from the embattled chief minister came in the state Assembly, which met here for an 11-day session against the backdrop of the resignation of 16 ruling coalition MLAs, which now threatens the government’s survival.

A total of 16 MLAs — 13 of the Congress and three of the JDS — resigned, which was followed by the two Independent legislators who were made ministers recently withdrawing support to the government.

“In my opinion today against the backdrop of the developments, I have decided that I should move the confidence motion. I seek your time,” Kumaraswamy told the Speaker.

“The occasion is such that, I have to say this, I can continue only if I enjoy the trust of the House. In this background, I am not ready to misuse my position sitting in this place,” he said.

He said he had taken the decision on the trust vote "voluntarily”.

“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,” Kumaraswamy said.

The ruling coalition's total strength is 116 (Congress-78, JDS-37 and BSP-1), besides the Speaker.

With the support of the two Independents, who on Monday resigned from the ministry, 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.

Reacting to the development, BJP leader and former deputy chief minister K.S. Eshwarappa said that Friday’s session was meant for condolences but the chief minister chose to speak about seeking trust vote.

“The chief minister should have spoken paying condolences to the departed souls. He has to think how justified is it to seek trust vote in the middle of paying tributes,” Eshwarappa said.

Status quo

The Supreme Court on Friday restrained Kumar from taking any decision on the resignation and disqualification of 10 rebel MLAs of the state's ruling Congress-JDS coalition till Tuesday.

Citing “weighty issues that have arisen”, the bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and comprising Justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose said the matter would be considered by the court 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.

It said senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the rebel MLAs, countered the Speaker’s submission that the disqualification plea of the ruling coalition in the southern state had to be decided before taking up the issue of resignation of the lawmakers.

Taking all these aspects and the incomplete facts before it into account, there was a need for further hearing, it said.

“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,” the bench said.

Rohatgi alleged that the Speaker has not decided on the resignations of the lawmakers and the idea behind keeping the issue alive and pending was to bind them with the party whip.

He said the Speaker questioned the MLAs' move to approach the apex court and asked them to “go to hell” in front of the media.

“(The) Speaker can be given one or two days to decide on the issue of resignations. If he still does not decide, contempt notice can be issued against him,” Rohatgi said.

Referring to constitutional provisions, Rohatgi said that legislative and other businesses conducted by the Speaker in the House are immune from judicial scrutiny but the issue of resignations are not.

The bench asked if the Speaker had the power to challenge the Supreme Court's order. It posed the question when senior advocate A.M. Singhvi, appearing for Kumar, said the Assembly Speaker also held a constitutional post and was obligated to decide on the disqualification as well.

“I am constitutionally obligated to decide on the plea for disqualification of the MLAs also,” Singhvi said.

“(The) Speaker is a very senior member of the Assembly and he knows the constitutional law. He can’t be maligned and lampooned like this,” he added.

Singhvi, also a Congress leader, said the Speaker was “duty-bound and empowered” to decide the issue of disqualification of the rebel MLAs first.

Senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan, appearing for the chief minister, said the top court had passed an “ex parte” order without issuing a notice to the Speaker.

Several corruption allegations against the state government have been levelled in the plea of the rebel MLAs while securing a judicial order, Dhavan said. One of the rebel MLAs was involved in a Ponzi scam for which the government is being accused, he added.

“(The) Speaker has the responsibility to satisfy himself that resignations were voluntary... The Supreme Court order was passed without hearing the other side, what can the speaker do in such a situation,” said Dhavan.

On Thursday, the top court asked the speaker to decide “forthwith” the issue of the resignation of 10 rebel MLAs, allowing them to meet him in Bangalore at 6pm.

It also directed the Karnataka director general of police to provide protection to the rebel MLAs from Bangalore airport to the Assembly after their arrival from Mumbai.

The Speaker, through his counsel, also moved the apex court for modification of the direction asking him to decide the issue of the resignation in the course of the day.

The 10 rebel MLAs moved the apex court alleging that the Speaker was not accepting their resignations.