Speaker should decide on Karnataka MLAs, says Mehta

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta on Thursday suggested to the Supreme Court that the Karnataka Assembly Speaker should take a fresh call on the disqualification of 15 dissident Congress and Janata Dal (Secular) MLAs under the anti-defection law.

Mr. Mehta is appearing for the Speaker’s office before a three-judge Bench led by Justice N.V. Ramana.

The court is hearing the disqualified MLAs’ petitions against their ouster by former Assembly Speaker K.R. Ramesh Kumar.

Mr. Kumar was replaced by the current Assembly Speaker, V.H. Kageri, after the Congress-JD(S) combine lost its majority in the House and the BJP formed a government in the State.

Submitting that legislators have a right to resign, Mr. Mehta said the case should go back to the Speaker’s table rather than the Supreme Court deciding it. Mr. Mehta had argued that it was “not defection if you give up membership of a political party for reasons of conscience, then you resign and go back to face the public mandate; this is recognition of the MLA’s right to resign”.

Senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan, for the JD(S), said defection was the biggest evil in politics. He said it reduced politics to a “trade”.

Mr. Dhavan said MLAs had no such “indefeasible right” to resign. They were responsible to the people. The Speaker is a constitutional authority. He has the power to look into the motive behind the resignation.

Mr. Dhavan said the disqualified MLAs were part of a group that wanted to upset the then government. The Speaker had every right to look into the chain of events that led to the quitting of MLAs, he added.


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