NEW DELHI/BENGALURU :
THE Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld the disqualification of the 17 Congress-JD(S) MLAs in Karnataka whose rebellion led to the fall of the Kumaraswamy Government and the return of the BJP to power in July but gave some relief by allowing them to contest the upcoming by-polls to 15 Assembly seats. As the court struck down the portion of the order of the then Speaker K R Ramesh Kumar by which the legislators were disqualified till the end of the current term of the State Assembly in 2023, all eyes were on the BJP’s next move on whether it will give tickets to the Congress-JD(S) rebels.Deputy Chief Minister C N Ashwathnarayan said that the disqualified MLAs will join the BJP on Thursday in Bengaluru after they expressed interest to be part of the party.
The apex court also said that if elected in the by-polls, the disqualified MLAs can become ministers or hold public office. Observing that constitutional morality should never be replaced by political morality, a three-judge bench of justices N V Ramana, Sanjiv Khanna and Krishna Murari held that the Speaker, in exercise of his powers under the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution, “does not have the power to either indicate the period for which a person is disqualified, or to bar someone contesting elections”. The court said there is a growing trend of Speakers acting against the “constitutional duty of being neutral” in addition to political parties indulging in horse-trading and corrupt practices due to which citizens are being denied Stable Governments. Ramesh Kumar is a Congress leader.
The Speaker, being a neutral person, is expected to act independently while conducting the proceedings of the House or adjudication petitions, it said. The constitutional responsibility endowed upon the Speaker has to be scrupulously followed and his political affiliations cannot come in the way of adjudication, the apex court said. It added that there is a need to consider strengthening certain aspects so that such “undemocratic practices” are discouraged and checked.
The disqualified legislators welcomed the verdict. The top court gave its verdict on petitions filed by the disqualified MLAs challenging the orders of Ramesh Kumar to disqualify them. Ramesh Kumar disqualified the 17 legislators--14 from the Congress and three from the JD(S)--ahead of the trust vote on July 23. Referring to a previous Constitution bench judgement, the court said, “We do not find any explicit or implicit bar to adjudicate the issue under the writ jurisdiction of this court.” Bench, however, deprecated the manner in which the disqualified MLAs directly approached it without first moving high court. It said the Speaker, while adjudicating a disqualification petition, acts as a quasi-judicial authority and the validity of the orders thus passed can be questioned before the apex court.