The Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld the decision by Karnataka Assembly Speaker to disqualify 17 rebel Congress-Janta Dal (Secular) MLAs but allowed them to contest the December 5 bypolls. These MLAs were disqualified by Speaker KR Ramesh Kumar after their revolt led to the collapse of the JDS-Congress coalition government. Fourteen of the rebel MLAs of the Congress and three of the JDS were disqualified under the anti-defection law by the Speaker in July. While the Supreme Court upheld the disqualification, it court struck down the portion of the Speaker's order by which the legislators were disqualified till the end of the 15th Karnataka Assembly. The top court passed the verdict on petitions filed by these disqualified MLAs.
"Speaker is not empowered to disqualify MLAs till the end of the legislature term," it said.
A three-judge bench of justices N V Ramana, Sanjiv Khanna and Krishna Murari said if elected in bypolls, these disqualified MLAs can become ministers or hold public office.
Karnataka Assembly Speaker KR Ramesh Kumar has disqualified these rebel MLAs and barred them from contesting polls for during the term which ends in 2023. The judgement will likely have a bearing on the bypolls for 15 of the 17 vacant assembly seats on December 5 and the current BJP government in Karnataka.
Supreme Court said that its verdict is based on facts and circumstance of case and does not interfere in Speaker's power to disqualify members.
Supreme Court also deprecated the manner in which the disqualified Karnataka MLAs directly approached it without first moving high court. However, it added that it proceeded to hear the case because of the peculiar instances.
Both ruling and opposition party have a role to uphold constitutional morality, said the Supreme Court bench during its verdict.