Karnataka Assembly Speaker KR Ramesh Kumar urged the Supreme Court Tuesday to modify its earlier order directing him to maintain status quo in the ongoing political crisis in the state even as the rebel Congress-JD(S) MLAs accused him of acting in a partisan manner by not deciding on their resignations. Senior advocate A M Singhvi, appearing for the speaker, told a bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi that he would decide on both disqualification and resignation of the rebel MLAs by Wednesday but the court should modify its earlier order asking him to maintain status quo.
Senior advocate Mukul Rohtagi, appearing for the rebel MLAs, told the apex court that the speaker can be directed to decide on the resignation of these MLAs by today itself and he can later take a call on the disqualification proceedings. Rohatgi argued that the speaker cannot keep the resignation of these MLAs pending and by doing so he is acting in a partisan manner.
Countering his submissions, Singhvi told the bench, also having Justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose, that speakers are not fallible but he cannot be asked to decide the matter in a time-bound manner. "How can the speaker be directed to decide in a particular manner?" Singhvi asked the court.
"Such orders are not passed even to a trial court," he said. He also said that a valid resignation should be submitted to the Speaker personally and the MLAs appeared before him only on July 11, five days after they submitted their resignations to his office.
The rebel MLAs told the court that the Speaker kept their resignation pending just to disqualify them and there was nothing wrong in resigning to escape disqualification. Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the rebel MLAs, submitted before the bench that the Speaker can be directed to decide on the resignation of the MLAs by 2 PM and he can take a call on their disqualification later.
The bench asked Rohatgi if there was any constitutional obligation on the Speaker to decide disqualification which was initiated after the resignation. Rohatgi said that the rules say to 'decide now' on resignation. "How can the Speaker keep it pending?" he asked. The rebel MLAs told the court that the state government has been reduced to minority and the Speaker by not accepting their resignations has attempted coercing them to vote for the government in trust vote.
Disqualification proceeding is a mini-trial under the Constitution's 10th Schedule, Rohatgi said, adding that resignation is different and its acceptance is based on a single criterion alone-- whether it is voluntary or not. There is nothing to show the rebel MLAs conspired with BJP, the senior advocate said.
The disqualification proceeding was nothing but to scuttle resignation of MLAs, he said. He also told the court that the disqualification proceedings were initiated for not being a disciplined soldier of the party and for not attending meetings outside the House.
The bench further asked if all the disqualification pleas are on same grounds, to which Rohatgi replied "more or less same". He had also told the court that the Speaker has to only see if the resignations were voluntary or not.
"Resignation has to be accepted, there is no other way to deal with it," Rohatgi told the court. "It is my fundamental right to do whatever I want to do and cannot be bound due to non-acceptance of resignation by speaker," submitted Rohatgi.
There is vote of confidence in assembly and the rebel MLAs may be forced to follow whip despite resigning, he said. Rohatgi told the court that the 10 MLAs resigned on July 6 and disqualification proceedings against two lawmakers were pending.
"When was the disqualification proceedings filed against rest eight MLAs," the top court asked, to which Rohatgi responded that disqualification proceedings started against them on July 10. The 10 rebel MLAs moved the apex court alleging that the Speaker was not accepting their resignations. They are: Pratap Gouda Patil, Ramesh Jarkiholi, Byrati Basavaraj, B C Patil, S T Somashekhar, Arbail Shivaram Hebbar, Mahesh Kumathalli, K Gopalaiah, A H Vishwanath and Narayana Gowda.
The apex court, which was dealing with the plea of 10 rebel MLAs on July 12, will now be hearing five more lawmakers who have sought identical relief that Karnataka Assembly Speaker K R Ramesh Kumar accept their resignations as well. The five MLAs -- Anand Singh, K Sudhakar, N Nagaraj, Munirathna and Roshan Baig -- mentioned their application before a bench of Chief Justice Gogoi and Justice Gupta Monday seeking impleadment as parties to the pending plea on which it was ordered that the speaker would not take any decision till Tuesday on the resignations and disqualifications.
The top court had on Friday restrained the Speaker from taking any decision till July 16 on the resignation and disqualification of the rebel MLAs. The top court had said an incidental question that would arise in the matter is the kind and extent of the directions that should be issued by a constitutional court to another constitutional functionary, which in the present case happens to be the Speaker of the Assembly.