In a major blow to the ruling BJP in Karnataka, the Supreme Court today quashed Assembly Speaker's decision to disqualify 16 MLAs ahead of the no confidence motion last year which had ensured survival of the Yeddyurappa government.
A bench headed by justice Altamas Kabir while quashing the speaker's decision said basic constitutional values and principles of natural justice were not observed by Speaker K G Bopaiah in disqualifying the 11 rebel BJP and five independent legislators.
The apex court passed the order while setting aside the Karnataka High Court order upholding the Speaker's decision, aggrieved by which the disqualified legislators had moved the apex court.
The apex court ruling came on an appeal by four of the 11 disqualified BJP MLAs in Karnataka against the high court order upholding the Speaker's decision.
The apex court bench had reserved its verdict on the appeal on February 11 after hearing at length counsel for the four MLAs - Gopala Krishana Belur, Shivanagaouda Naik, Shanker Linge Gowda and Bellubbi, besides lawyers for Chief Minister B S Yeddyuruppa and the Assembly Speaker.
Eleven rebel BJP MLAs and five independent ones were disqualified by the Speaker on the eve of the voting on a no-trust motion against Chief Minister Yeddyurappa's government.
The MLAs were disqualified as it was apprehended that they would support the no-trust motion against the government during the voting.
The 16 MLAs had withdrawn their support to the government on October 6 last year and were suspended on October 11.
In their appeal, the MLAs had contended that their disqualification had raised substantial questions of constitutional and administrative laws of public importance having serious implications for the democratic representative government and involving an interpretation of the provisions of the Tenth Schedule and the rules made thereunder.
The legislators had submitted that they had made a categorical statement in their replies to the show-cause notice issued by the Speaker before their suspension that they had no intention at all to leave BJP or the membership of its legislature party and that their letter to the Governor was aimed at "cleansing the image of the party by getting rid of Yeddyurappa as Chief Minister."
According to the petition, democratic dissent, without any intention of leaving the party but in the hope of saving its image and reputation by getting rid of a "corrupt" Chief Minister, cannot be regarded as voluntarily giving up the party membership as such.
It was submitted that they were disqualified before the voting actually took place in the Assembly apprehending that they would vote against the Chief Minister on the specious ground that they had voluntarily given up BJP membership.
The Karnataka High Court had upheld the disqualification of 11 rebel BJP MLAs on October 29.