Amid the political crisis leaving the Congress-JD(S) government on the brink of collapse in Karnataka, a Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi has on Tuesday reserved the order and will pass the verdict on Wednesday at 10:30 am, after hearing arguments from all the three sides, including the Speaker, CM Kumaraswamy and rebel MLAs. The Supreme Court was hearing the pleas of 15 rebel MLAs against Speaker K R Ramesh for not accepting their resignations.
During the hearing, Karnataka Assembly Speaker K R Ramesh Kumar urged the Top Court to modify its earlier order directing him to maintain status quo in the ongoing political crisis in the state. Senior advocate A M Singhvi, appearing for the speaker, told the SC bench that he will decide on both disqualification and resignation of the rebel MLAs by Wednesday.
Announcing the verdict, the CJI said that the SC decades ago had given a very high status to Speaker while interpreting the anti-defection law, adding that the law probably needs a relook after so many years.
During the hearing, Mukul Rohatgi, who represented 10 rebel MLAs against the Karnataka Speaker over delay in acceptance of resignation said that the case is an attempt to speed-track the resignations.
"I don't want to be an MLA. Nobody can force me. My resignation must be accepted. This is an attempt to scuttle their resignations. The Speaker is trying to make a decision on both the issues-resignation and disqualification-at the same time," Mukul Rohtagi said in the court.
Putting their statements, the 10 rebel Congress-JD(S) MLAs of the ruling Kumaraswamy coalition said in the Supreme Court that their resignations "have to be accepted", alleging that there is no other way to deal with the ongoing political crisis.
The rebel MLAs told the SC that resignations have to be accepted by the Speaker because they don't want to serve as MLAs any, adding that Speaker has to only see if it is voluntary or not. Furthermore, the rebel Congress-JD(S) MLAs wanted the Speaker to decide on the resignation by Wednesday ahead of the floor test in Karnataka assembly which is likely to take place on Thursday. The rebel MLAs also told the court that the Speaker kept their resignation pending just to disqualify them adding that there was nothing wrong in resigning to escape disqualification.
Initially, the 10 rebel Congress-JD(S) MLAs moved the Supreme Court on July 12. Later, five more lawmakers sought the Apex Court to hear their plea against Karnataka Assembly Speaker K R Ramesh Kumar over non-acceptance of their resignations. The top court had on Friday restrained the Speaker from taking any decision till July 16 on the resignation and disqualification of the rebel MLAs.
The top court had said an incidental question that would arise in the matter is the kind and extent of the directions that should be issued by a constitutional court to another constitutional functionary, which in the present case happens to be the Speaker of the Assembly.
Meanwhile, Congress leader Siddaramaiah on Monday confirmed that the vote of confidence in the state Assembly will take place on July 18, Thursday, at 11 AM.
(With PTI inputs)