You are supposed to be neutral, SC reminds Ramesh Kumar
New Delhi/Bengaluru: Intriguing politics in Karnataka once more kickstarted after the Supreme Court today upheld an order by former Karnataka Assembly Speaker K R Ramesh Kumar disqualifying 17 Karnataka MLAs in July. In the very same breath, the court struck down the brutal ruling of the Speaker prohibiting the disqualified MLAs from standing for elections till the end of the term of the State Assembly in 2023.
It was either a win or a loss for both the BJP and the Opposition Congress-JDS combine, depending on how the verdict was interpreted. The BJP claimed victory as the rebel MLAs who brought down the HD Kumaraswamy government can contest the upcoming bypolls on December 5, the Congress-JDS said the ruling clearly showed how the rebel MLAs were lured by the BJP as part of ‘Operation Kamal’.
But the court tweaked at the ears of former speaker Ramesh Kumar who disqualified the MLAs.
The three-judge bench of justices N V Ramana, Sanjiv Khanna and Krishna Murari said: ” The speaker in the exercise of powers does not have the power to indicate the period for which a person is barred from contesting an election.”
“We uphold the order of speaker of disqualification. But strike out the period of disqualification,” it added.
Looking closely at the Speaker’s action, the court said there is a growing trend of Speakers acting against the “constitutional duty of being neutral” in addition to political parties indulging in horse-trading and corrupt practices due to which citizens are being denied stable governments. Speaker Ramesh Kumar is a Congress leader.
The Speaker, being a neutral person, is expected to act independently while conducting the proceedings of the House or adjudication petitions, it said in the case filed by the rebel MLAs.
The constitutional responsibility endowed upon the Speaker has to be scrupulously followed and his political affiliations cannot come in the way of adjudication, the apex court said, adding, there is a need to consider strengthening certain aspects so that such “undemocratic practices” are discouraged and checked.
Bypolls to 15 out of 17 Karnataka assembly seats, which became vacant following the disqualification of MLAs, are scheduled on December 5 and results would be declared on Dec 9. The Election Commission has not announced bypolls in Maski and Rajarajeshwari segments as petitions are pending in Karnataka High Court relating to the 2018 assembly election in the state.
Despite a favourable ruling suspense continues on the fate of disqualified MLAs. It is not clear if they will get a ticket in the upcoming bypolls even as a rebellion is mounting within the BJP against turncoats.
BJP leader and Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa and Deputy Chief Minister CN Ashwathnarayan confirmed that the disqualified MLAs will join the BJP on Thursday at 10 am, but also said that a final decision on ticket distribution has not been taken.
Expressing confidence that the BJP will win all the 15 seats at stake, Yediyurappa said the party would decide on giving tickets to the disqualified MLAs.
The disqualified MLAs are: Pratap Gowda Patil, BC Patil, Shivram Hebbar, ST Somashekar, Byrati Basavaraj, Anand Singh, R Roshan Baig, N Munirathna, K Sudhakar and MTB Nagaraj, Shrimant Patil, Ramesh Jarkiholi, Mahesh Kumatalli and R Shankar (all Congress). JD(S) members who faced action are K Gopalaiah, AH Vishwanath and KC Narayana Gowda.
Minutes after the Supreme Court verdict, the Congress blasted BS Yediyurappa-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in the state calling it “illegal”.
Karnataka Congress Committee president Dinesh Gundu Rao targeted the BJP government saying the recent Supreme Court verdict proves that “Karnataka BJP government is an illegal government”. “Supreme Court has upheld the disqualification of all the 17 MLA’s who defected from @INCIndia & JDS. It also proves that the Karnataka BJP govt is an illegal govt. @BJP4India had used unconstitutional means to fabricate a majority. It should be immediately dismissed,” Congress leader Dinesh Gundu Rao tweeted.