Karnataka chaos: SC asks if Speaker has power to challenge its order

New Delhi: Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy alleged in the Supreme Court today that the top court’s order on the resignations of the rebel Congress-JD(S) MLAs was passed without issuing a notice to the State Assembly Speaker.

Senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan, appearing for Kumaraswamy, told a bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi that the pleas of the MLAs should not have been entertained.

He further said the MLAs, in their plea, had levelled corruption allegations against the state government and still the order concerned was passed without hearing him.

Dhavan also told the bench that one of the rebel MLAs was involved in a Ponzy scheme for which “we (state government) are being accused of.”

He said the Speaker had the responsibility to satisfy himself as regards whether the resignations were voluntary.
Dhavan also said when the apex court order was passed without hearing the other side, what could the speaker do in such a situation.

Senior advocate AM Singhvi, appearing for Karnataka Assembly Speaker K R Ramesh Kumar, told the bench that his client was not served the copy of the petition and the plea was controverted by the rebel legislators. He also said disqualification proceedings had been filed against eight of the rebel MLAs.

“The Speaker is duty-bound and empowered to decide on disqualification of MLAs first,” Singhvi told the bench.
At the outset, the bench had asked him whether the Speaker had the power to challenge its order, while hearing a plea moved by Kumar against the top court order asking him to take a decision on the resignations of 10 rebel MLAs on Thursday.

Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the MLAs, said the speaker could be given one or two days to decide on the resignations and if he did not take a decision on the matter within that time-frame, a contempt notice could be issued against him.

Rohatgi said the Speaker had questioned the move of the rebel MLAs to approach the apex court and asked them to ‘go to hell’ in front of the media.

“The idea behind keeping the resignation issue alive and pending is to bind the MLAs to the party whip,” he submitted. The lawmakers also told the bench that the speaker had not taken any decision on their resignations, adding that he had no immunity with regard to the acceptance of the papers.

However, Singhvi said the speaker was constitutionally obligated to decide on a plea for disqualification of the rebel MLAs. “The Speaker is a very senior member of the Assembly. He knows constitutional law. He cannot be maligned, lampooned like this,” he told the bench.