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Karnataka crisis: Speaker gets no extra time, SC says decide on rebel resignations

The bench also comprising Justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose also directed that the Speaker's decision be placed before it Friday.

By Ananthakrishnan G

Hours after the Supreme Court Thursday asked Karnataka Speaker KR Ramesh Kumar to take a decision on the resignations of 10 rebel Congress and JD(S) MLAs before the day ended, the Speaker told the court that the process would take time and he won't be able to complete it Thursday.

Hearing a plea by the 10 MLAs against the delay by the Speaker in accepting their resignations, a bench headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi Thursday morning "permitted" the MLAs to appear before the Speaker at 6 pm.

Later, in an application to the SC, Kumar said that under Article 190 (1)(b) of the Constitution, he was required to conduct an enquiry "for ascertaining whether the resignation is voluntary and genuine". If the resignations are accepted, the 13-month-old Congress-JD(S) government in Karnataka will lose majority in the 224-member House, paving the way for the BJP to stake claim to form government.

"It is only after such enquiry/process that the satisfaction of the Speaker can be reached…Several of the resignations are not in accordance with Rule 202 of the Rules and Procedure of Conduct of Business in the Karnataka Legislative Assembly. It is thus respectfully submitted that the enquiry so contemplated cannot be completed today itself," stated the Speaker's plea seeking recall of the SC order asking him to decide the matter on Thursday.

The court "requested" the Speaker "to grant an audience to the ten petitioners at the said time" and said the MLAs "if they so wish and are so inclined, shall intimate the …Speaker…their decision to resign, in which event, the…Speaker shall take a decision forthwith and, in any case, in the course of the remaining part of the day".

The bench also comprising Justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose also directed that the Speaker's decision be placed before it Friday.

Following the SC order, at least 10 rebel MLAs, who were camping in Mumbai, arrived in Bengaluru by two special flights to meet the Speaker and tender their resignation. The MLAs boarded a luxury bus from the HAL airport and left for the Vidhana Soudha, the state secretariat. While 10 of them arrived from Mumbai, one Congress MLA joined them at the Vidhana Soudha and went inside the Speakers chamber.

Appearing for the MLAs in the SC, senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi submitted that the number of MLAs who wanted to quit had reached 15 and urged the court to direct the state DGP to provide security to them, saying one of them was manhandled Wednesday. The court asked him to make the request "to the Director General of Police well in time to enable the Director General to arrange for such security as the circumstances of the case would require".

Within a few hours of the order, the Speaker rushed to the court seeking its recall.

Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi mentioned it before the CJI-led bench and requested that it be heard urgently. The court, however, said it had already passed an order and it was now up to the Speaker and that it will hear him on Friday.

Kumar's plea said there were also disqualification proceedings pending against the MLAs which "also needs to be decided in accordance with law which cannot be completed by today".

It further said that "under the…Constitution, no direction is contemplated against the Speaker inter-alia to take a decision under Article 190 in a particular manner."

Kumar added the SC order "would also impede the duties of the Speaker under the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution".

In their petition, the rebel MLAs accused the Speaker of acting in a "partisan and mala fide manner…to protect the Govt. in power which is in a minority". It said the "Chief Minister despite being reduced to minority is refusing to seek a vote of confidence."

The plea further said "as a result of the concerted acts between the speaker and the govt., a minority Govt. which does not enjoy the confidence of the House, continues in power illegally." The MLAs also attacked CM H D Kumaraswamy's government and said their resignation "was on the issue of principle and in public interest.

(With inputs from PTI)