Karnataka Political Crisis: Two ex-Congress MLAs approach Supreme Court challenging disqualification

Aditya AK July 29 2019

Even as the dust settles on the political crisis in Karnataka, two MLAs have approached the Supreme Court challenging the decision of the Speaker to disqualify them.

MLAs Ramesh Jarkhiholi and Mahesh Kumathalli have termed the Speaker’s decision to disqualify them on July 25 as “wholly illegal, arbitrary and mala fide”. The Speaker had also rejected the resignations tendered by the two MLAs as not voluntary or genuine.

Gokak MLA Ramesh Jarkhiholi and Athani MLA Mahesh Kumathalli have approached the Supreme Court

The petition details the chain of events leading up to the disqualification of Jarkhiholi and Kumathalli - MLAs from the Gokak and Athani constituencies respectively.

Disqualification proceedings were initiated against the two former Congress MLAs in February this year after they failed to attend Legislature Party meetings on two occasions. It was alleged that in doing so, the petitioners had incurred disqualification under para 2(1)(a) of the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution of India. The proceedings against them were kept pending with the Speaker.

Meanwhile, the petition points out that the Speaker had accepted the resignation of another MLA - Dr. Umesh Jadhav - in April this year. This shows that pendency of disqualification proceedings against an MLA was not a bar to the acceptance of his resignation, the petition contends.

On July 6, 10 MLAs of the Karnataka Legislative Assembly, including the petitioners, had tendered their resignations. The petition contends that attempts to personally tender their resignations to the Speaker were scuppered after the Speaker made himself unavailable. This fact has been contended by the Speaker before the Supreme Court.

This compelled the petitioners and other MLAs to go to Delhi, thus sparking off the chain of events in the Supreme Court.

When the matter came up for hearing on July 11, the Court directed the Speaker of the Karnataka Legislative Assembly KR Ramesh Kumar to decide on the resignations tendered by the rebel MLAs.

Hours later, however, the Speaker moved the Supreme Court seeking recall of this order.

When the matter came up for hearing again on July 12, the Court ordered that status quo be maintained by the Speaker with respect to the resignations by rebel MLAs and the disqualification proceedings against them.

Subsequently, on July 17, the Court directed the Speaker of the Karnataka Legislative Assembly to decide on the resignations of the rebel Congress and JD(S) MLAs within an "appropriate time frame”.

Then, on July 18, the Speaker issued a notice asking the petitioners to appear before him on July 23, in furtherance of the disqualification proceedings. This notice, it is contended, is in violation of Rule 7 of the Karnataka Legislative Assembly (Disqualification of Members on Ground of Defection) Rules,1986, which prescribes for a minimum period of 7 days notice. It is also claimed that the notice was never received personally by the petitioners nor was it served upon them.

It is also claimed that the disqualification is in violation of the Supreme Court order passed on July 17.

“…the disqualification proceedings were not in accordance with the provisions of the Disqualification Rules and principles of Natural Justice. It was also contended on behalf of the Petitioners that the status quo order granted by this Court qua disqualification proceedings was not modified and hence continued to be in full force. Therefore he could not have proceeded with the disqualification proceedings at all. The proceedings thus merited to be adjourned to afford the Petitioners an opportunity to make their case before the Hon’ble Speaker.”

Further, it is claimed that the Speaker’s order rejecting their resignations is not in consonance with Article 190 read with Rule 202 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the Karnataka Legislative Assembly.  Moreover,

“Article 361-B clearly contemplates that the member who has been disqualified can contest the elections and the disqualification to hold the remunerative political post is only till the date on which he is elected back. On the face of it, there can be no bar to contest the elections even if the person is held to be disqualified under the Xth Schedule. It is submitted that the Impugned Order directing the disqualification till the end of the term of the assembly is contrary to the express provisions of Article 361-B and is thus liable to be set aside.”

The petitioners have submitted that there is no reason to believe that their will to resign was not voluntary or genuine. The finding of the Speaker that the petitioners had been making efforts for defection of MLAs from the then ruling party by offering money, power etc., is wholly erroneous and is based on no evidence. 

Thus, it has been prayed that the Court quash the orders of the Speaker disqualifying them and rejecting their resignations as being not voluntary or genuine. A prayer has also been made calling for the records of the resignation and disqualification proceedings before the Speaker.