Court asks BSY to produce letter submitted to Governor on list of supporting MLAs.
In a high voltage drama that went beyond midnight and into the wee hours of today, the Supreme Court refused to stay the swearing-in ceremony of BJP’s BS Yeddyurappa at 9 am. But the court asked Yeddyurappa to produce letter he had given to Karnataka governor claiming support of MLAs.
In an unprecedented move, the Chief Justice convened the bench comprising Justice AK Sikri, SA Bobde and Ashok Bhushan at around 2.30 am. Pronouncing an order at around 4.30 am today, the court made it clear that Yeddyurappa’s swearing-in is subject to outcome of the petition after final hearing, which will be tomorrow (Friday).
Passing an interim order on an urgent petition filed by senior lawyer Manu Abhishek Singhvi on behalf of the Congress-JD(S) combine, the court said it cannot intervene with Governor Vajubhai Vala’s decision to invite the leader of the largest single party following the elections in Karnataka.
However, giving hope to the Congress, the court did not outright dismiss the petition filed by Congress-JD(S) combine but will take up the matter tomorrow.
But in another significant observation, the court said it is preposterous to argue that before MLAs take oath they are not subject to anti-defection law. This means it is an open invitation to horse trading, the SC bench observed.
This means MLAs cannot switch sides; if they do so, they will face disqualification under the Anti-Defection Law. However, the BJP can coax a few MLAs from the Congress-JD(S) combine to abstain from voting,
Singhvi pleaded with the court to defer swearing in till 4.30 pm and ask Yeddyurappa to show list of supporting MLAs. He also said giving BSY 15 days was against well established rulings of the Supreme Court.
Arguing on behalf of the Centre, Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi told the court that how long Yeddyurappa will be given to prove majority can be debated after two days
Rohatgi said the President and Governor are not answerable to any court. The court should not stop a constitutional functionary in functioning of his official duties. He however conceded that the Court can curtail the time period to seek a confidence vote from 15 to 10 or 7 days.
“We do not know whether Yeddyurappa will face floor test. This petition should not have been filed. They should have waited for outcome of floor test,” the AG said.
The SC ruling and the Governor’s move to invite BSY will be a setback for the JD(S)-Congress alliance that has approached the governor with the signature of over 115 MLAs.
Late Wednesday night, the political scenario in Karnataka took a strange and sudden twist when Governor Vajubhal Vala invited BJP legislative party leader B S Yeddyurappa to take oath as chief minister at 9 am today. Strange on two counts: the communique was not put out by the Raj Bhavan but the letter was released by the BJP; secondly, the Governor has given a very generous 15 days’ time for Yeddyurappa to prove his majority.
Legal experts say that when a political situation like the one in Karnataka is fluid and uncertain, the leader invited to form a government should prove his majority in the shortest possible time, preferably 48 hours. This is to prevent horse-trading. In Karnataka, where political drama can change complexion by the minute, it is anybody’s guess as to what would happen in 15 days.
The JD(S)-Congress combine here fretted and fumed and slammed the move of the Governor calling it murder of democracy in darkness. An angry JD(S) leader HD Kumaraswamy flayed Prime Minister Narendra Modi for double standards and said the 15 days given by the Governor is a clear indication that the BJP will `buy’ his MLAs.
The Governor is within his rights to invite the leader of the largest single party, but the question is why at night and why the hurry. And, once again, why did the Raj Bhavan not release the communique.
The Governor seems to have taken the decision in the morning itself. The cat was let out of the bag by Yeddyurappa (BSY) who had met the Governor in the morning. Soon after the meeting, Yeddyurappa confidently said he would be sworn in as CM tomorrow.
Later the BJP put out a tweet stating the BSY would take oath tomorrow at 9 am. The tweet was subsequently deleted.
Later, addressing the media in Delhi, Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala called the Governor’s move as murder of the Constitution and that an illegal government will assume office in Bengaluru.
BJP leader Basavaraj Bommai defended the governor saying that he had just replied to Yeddyurappa’s letter wherein he had said that he was the leader of the single largest party. The Governor was not bound to issue a communique.
Bommai also said the Governor had consulted various legal experts before inviting Yeddyurappa.