The Supreme Court said today Karnataka assembly Speaker is free to decide on the status of rebel lawmakers whose resignations endanger the ruling Congress-Janata Dal Secular coalition.
“The discretion of the Speaker should not be fettered by any direction from the court. The Speaker can decide on the resignations as and when he feels appropriate,” the top court said, but added that his decision should be submitted to the court.
The court also said the rebel lawmakers should not be compelled to participate in the proceedings of the state assembly. This means the government cannot use whips to force the dissident lawmakers to participate in the trust vote on Thursday.
The court said: “We have to maintain constitutional balance.”
The rebels had argued in court yesterday that their resignations must be accepted by the Speaker, that they could not be “forced to attend the assembly”.
Sixteen legislators of the JDS-Congress coalition and two independent lawmakers have resigned over the past two weeks.
If the resignations are accepted, the state government will lose its majority. 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, which would take its tally to 107.
Speaker KR Ramesh Kumar had told the court that many of the dissidents were facing disqualification and he needed time to examine their resignation letters. He had also said he had to determine whether the resignations were coerced.
If the MLAs are disqualified, they must be re-elected and can’t become ministers. A resignation, on the other hand, allows lawmakers to become ministers easily if the BJP comes to power. They will have six months to seek re-election.
Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy had backed the Speaker, arguing that rebel lawmakers were “hunting in pack” to destabilize his government and their resignations must be reviewed carefully.