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SC Reserves Judgement on Rebel MLAs for Tomorrow

Karnataka Assembly Speaker seeks time till tomorrow to take a call on the resignation and disqualification of rebel Cong.- JDS MLAs
SC Reserves Judgement

The Supreme Court of India has reserved its judgement on the resignation of the rebel Congress-JD(S) MLAs for tomorrow. It is likely to pass it’s judgement around 10:30 am. The apex court, which was hearing the case of 15 rebel lawmakers of the ruling Congress-Janata Dal Secular (JDs) coalition who have petitioned against the Speaker for not accepting their resignation, had earlier on Thursday, July 11, said that there would be no decision till today on the dissident lawmakers who threaten the government's survival.

Karnataka Assembly Speaker KR Ramesh Kumar has also sought time till tomorrow to take a call on the resignation and disqualification of rebel Congress-JDS MLAs after the Supreme Court came down heavily on him for delaying the process. The court, which was hearing the plea of the MLAs, told senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi representing the Speaker that while he reminded the SC of its constitutional duty, he did not take a call on the resignations.

“What stopped the Speaker from deciding their resignation? Speaker could have termed them as involuntary but why didn’t he decide within 24 hours and take a call on disqualification? This Court ordered a floor test within 24 hours, appointed a pro tem Speaker, where’s the issue of jurisdiction?”

According to reports, Karnataka's rebel lawmakers today, July 16, told the SC that their resignations must be accepted, that they could not be "forced to attend the assembly". "Is there any evidence of a gun being pointed at their temple," former attorney general Mukul Rohatgi, representing the rebels, told the court, alleging that the Speaker was deliberately sitting on the resignations.

"When I don't want to attend the assembly, can I be forced to do so? The Speaker is coercing (us) to continue, to sit and speak in a particular group of which we don't want to be a part of," Mr Rohatgi said on behalf of the dissident lawmakers.

Sixteen legislators of the JDS-Congress coalition and two independent lawmakers have resigned. If the resignations are accepted, the coalition's 118 members will come down to 100 and the majority mark will drop from 113 to 105. The BJP has 105 members and the support of the two Independents, would take its tally to 107.

Speaker KR Ramesh Kumar had told the court that he would need time to examine the resignation letters of the dissidents and determine whether they were coerced or voluntary. As per reports by NDTV, he also claimed that many of the rebels face disqualification from their parties. The court, which had asked for the Speaker's decision by Wednesday night last week, had questioned whether the Speaker had the power to challenge its order.

The coalition has decided to take a floor test this Thursday, a move seen as a last-ditch attempt to save the teetering coalition that came to power last May after an election that gave no clear majority to any party.

Backroom manoeuvring has been going on with Congress troubleshooter DK Shivakumar and other leaders reaching out to the rebels, who are holed up in a hotel in Mumbai. The coalition also saw a short-lived victory on Friday last when after being coaxed by Congress leader Siddaramaiah and Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy, rebel lawmaker MTB Nagaraj hinted he was open to coming back but on the condition that another rebel, Sudhakar Rao, withdrew his resignation. The next day, Mr Nagaraj flew out from Bengaluru to Mumbai to join the other rebel lawmakers.

Meanwhile, the BJP is confident of the number game after Congress MLA N. Nagaraju (MTB) joined the other rebels in Mumbai and is now keen on forcing a trust vote being sought by Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy in the Assembly immediately.

BJP State president B.S. Yeddyurappa on Sunday had told media persons that he would attend the Assembly business advisory committee meeting on Monday and also demand that the Chief Minister take the floor test immediately, preferably on Monday itself.

Mr. Yeddyurappa also told reporters that the political situation was in favour of the BJP. He indicated that the party was inching towards forming the government, by saying that “the party will get an opportunity to serve the people of the State in the next two to three days”.

He said, “The Chief Minister no longer enjoys a majority in the House. He must resign immediately and vacate the seat.”

The BJP also believes that the coalition government must resign because it has "lost its moral authority to rule." The party has been accused by the Congress and the JDS of crafting the crisis to try and seize power in Karnataka, more than a year after it fell short of a majority in state polls.

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