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Karnataka: Rebel MLAs can stay away from trust vote, Speaker to take call on resignations says SC

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New Delhi, July 17: The Supreme Court has said that the 15 rebel MLAs cannot be compelled to take part in the trust vote to be held in the Karnataka Legislative Assembly on Thursday.

Delivering its verdict on the petitions filed by the rebels, the Bench headed by Chief Justice of India, Ranjan Gogoi said that the Speaker, Ramesh Kumar could decide on the resignations when he wants. There is no time frame. However when he decides on the same, he shall place the same before the Supreme Court, the Bench also noted.

Karnataka: Rebel MLAs can stay away from trust vote, Speaker to take call on resignations says SC

The Bench said that the Speaker is at liberty to decide on the resignations, whenever he wanted.

Mukul Rohatgi appearing for the rebel MLAs urged the court to exempt the 15 lawmakers from appearing in the assembly on Thursday. We have a fundamental right to resign, he maintained. The H D Kumaraswamy government faces a crucial trust vote at 11 am on Thursday.

Rohatgi told the court that the silence of the Speaker to the resignations of the MLAs is deemed sanction. The speaker is coercing us to sit and speak in a particular group of which I don't want be part of.

The trust vote is on Thursday. The game is to issue a whip and argue that the Supreme Court's order was limited to the previous whip. The idea is to overreach the court's protection. This government is in minority and that is simple maths, Rohatgi argued.

The MLAs say that the Speaker by keeping the resignations in abeyance and threatening to take up disqualification proceedings, is threatening them to attend the assembly on the day of the trust vote, although they do not want to be part of the party they belonged to.

The CJI told Rohatgi that the court cannot say how the Speaker should decide on the resignation or disqualification. We cannot fetter him. The question here is if there is any constitutional obligation for him to decide on the resignation before the disqualification or to club his decision on both.

The Speaker cannot question the genuineness of a resignation just because disqualification is pending. That can never be a ground. I can very well resign even when the disqualification is pending. Where is the estoppel in law, Rohatgi asked. He also cited a Kerala HC judgment, which had permitted an MLA to resign despite disqualification proceedings pending.

CJI asked if they agreed with the rebels, then what should the order be. Rohatgi says that the Speaker should be ordered to decide. This court did not hesitate to ask the Karnataka Speaker during a midnight hearing to hold a floor test.

A M Singhvi appearing for the Speaker says that the disqualification has to be recognised and that it may have noting to do with the disqualification. It is the act that brings about the disqualification. He says that the disqualification has to be recognised and that it may have nothing to do with the petitions moved. It is the act that brings out the disqualification.

Singhvi said that all cases of physical presentation before the Speaker is as late as July 11 and not before that. Four of these MLAs have not physically presented themselves till date.

There is no restriction that a member has to be physically present to resign. They can send letters too. What has the Speaker done since July 6 when the resignations were given. Speaker didn't do anything until they came to this court, the CJI said.

Speaker reminds us of our constitutional duty, but doesn't decide. He tells us, he will take his own time, the CJI also observed.

MLAs cannot make a choice that they do not come under the 10th Schedule. This is a decision to be made by the Speaker and his satisfaction has to be the satisfaction under the Constitution. This court has reproached aaya ram gaya ram, while acknowledging the Constitutional function of a Speaker. The only instance when the court can interfere is when the action of the Speaker is perverse, R Dhavan arguing for the Karnataka CM said.

Let there be a full-fledged debate on Thursday. Let all the rebel MLAs be present in the House to represent their constituencies, Dhavan told the SC on behalf of H D Kumaraswamy.

Mukul Rohatgi arguing for the rebels says that the petition is maintainable under Article 32, since the MLAs' role as legislators as well as rights of the individuals who want to opt out are kept dangling by the Speaker.

It is for nobody to get not my mind or heart when I resign voluntarily. Constitution binds the Speaker to decide on resignations immediately if there is no material to the contrary, Rohatgi told the Court.

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