Two disqualified Karnataka legislators on Monday moved the Supreme Court against their ouster from the Assembly under the anti-defection law, saying the Speaker’s decision was made in “hot haste” at the behest of the Congress party.
Ramesh Jarkhiholi and Mahesh Kumathalli said Speaker K.R. Ramesh Kumar, spurred by elements in the Congress, revived a February 2019 disqualification proceeding against them in a bid to subvert a decision on their pending resignation letters of July. The Speaker, the legislators said, quickly disqualified them with hardly a thought for the principles of natural justice.
The petition has arraigned, besides the Speaker and the State of Karnataka, Congress Legislature Party leader Siddaramaiah and State Congress president Dinesh Gundurao as respondents.
More legislators, including R. Shankar, who have been disqualified may approach the Supreme Court for relief.
In the present petition, the two legislators urged the court to set aside the July 25 decision of the Speaker to disqualify them from the 15th Karnataka Legislative Assembly. They challenged the Speaker’s conclusion that their resignations were neither voluntary nor genuine. They asked the apex court to call for the records of the proceedings pertaining to their resignation and disqualification.
They argued that the disqualification order under the Tenth Schedule was not in consonance with the Rules 6 and 7 of the Karnataka Legislative Assembly (Disqualification of Members on Ground of Defection) Rules of 1986, inasmuch as, they were not given seven days’ notice before the matter was taken up for hearing.
In fact, the petitioners said they did not receive any timely notice of the proceedings. Even the one received on July 18 to appear before the Speaker on July 23 for the disqualification hearing was “wholly inadequate”.
Further, while deciding on their resignations, the Speaker indulged in a “roving enquiry”. “The Speaker has sought to rely upon the alleged conduct and motive of the petitioners in submitting the resignations. It is submitted that the conduct and motive for submitting the resignation is wholly immaterial to decide the voluntariness and genuineness of the resignation of the MLAs. It is submitted that the actions of the Speaker are wholly arbitrary and unreasonable and in violation of Article 14 of the Constitution,” the petition argued.
Besides, they said, not only had they submitted their resignations on July 6, they repeated the act by coming in person again on July 11 before the Speaker to submit their resignations. “It is submitted under Article 190 of the Constitution read with Rule 202 of the Karnataka Legislative Assembly, a member can deliver resignation signed in his own hand and the Speaker is only to satisfy himself about genuineness and voluntariness of the resignation.”
The legislators further blamed the Speaker of adopting a “pick-and-choose” policy. Mr. Kumar had allowed another MLA, Umesh Jadhav, to resign even though a disqualification petition was pending against the latter.
The petition said the Speaker slipped out of his office when the legislators went to tender their resignations on July 6. He did not comply when the Supreme Court, on July 11, asked him to decide the resignations on the same day. The floor test, which was supposed to be held on July 18, was unduly delayed.
Meanwhile, on July 22, the Congress filed “additional grounds” in favour of the disqualification of the legislators. This was despite a July 17 order of the Supreme Court that none of the rebel MLAs should be compelled to participate in the Assembly proceedings. However, the extra grounds for disqualification ultimately became the sole basis of their disbarment from the House, the legislators alleged.
“When the Supreme Court had directed that the petitioners could not be compelled to attend the legislative proceedings, the Speaker could not have disqualified the petitioners relying upon a whip issued by the Congress party, which in essence sought to compel the Petitioners to attend the Legislature,” the petition submitted.
Finally, the legislators argued that the basic premise of their disqualification is that they did not attend a Congress legislative party meeting held outside the Assembly way back in January-February 2019
“Merely because a person absents from attending a meeting of the party, there cannot be any inference that he had left the political party. In fact, they had written letters to the party leader giving their personal reasons for not attending the meeting. Except for this bald allegation the respondents failed to file any substantial material in support of its allegations,” the petition said.