Karnataka rebel MLAs: Singhvi, Rohatgi begin arguments in SC

On July 12, SC ordered Kumar not to act on resignations till its July 16 hearing

Supreme Court Ahlawat The Supreme Court | Sanjay Ahlawat

A Supreme Court bench on Tuesday began hearings into pleas by 10 Karnataka MLAs of the Congress and JD(S) who resigned from the Assembly since July 1, plunging the state into a political crisis. The 10 MLAs had petitioned the Supreme Court on the grounds that Karnataka Assembly Speaker K.R. Ramesh Kumar had not acted on their resignation letters.

The Supreme Court bench was led by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and also comprised Justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose. On July 12, the Supreme Court had ordered Kumar not to act on the resignations or initiate disqualification procedures till its orders on Tuesday.

The Supreme Court had on July 12 noted that the case had raised important questions on whether a “Constitutional court can issue direction to speaker to decide on resignations”.

Mukul Rohatgi represented the 10 rebel MLAs, while Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi appeared for the Speaker.

On Tuesday, Rohatgi referred to the resignation of former Congress MLA Umesh Jadhav in March. Jadhav had quit the party to contest the Lok Sabha polls on a BJP ticket. Jadhav defeated Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge in the Lok Sabha polls. Rohatgi noted that Jadhav's resignation was accepted by the speaker even when disqualification proceedings were pending against him.

Rohatgi was quoted by Bar and Bench as saying “disqualification proceedings were pending against two” of the 10 MLAs who resigned on July 10. Rohatgi asked, “If I don't want to be an MLA, how can I be forced to attend house?” According to Live Law, Rohatgi cited the impending trust vote against the Kumaraswamy government on Thursday and said, “The plan is to issue a new whip to rebel MLAs to vote in trust vote session and to cause disqualification”.

Rohatgi asked the Supreme Court to issue orders to the speaker to decide on the resignations of the MLAs in a specified time frame. According to Live Law, Rohatgi concluded, “The immunity under Article 212 of Constitution is that validity of house proceedings should not be called into question by the court. But that is not a bar for the court to direct the speaker to take a time-bound decision.”

Countering Rohatgi's arguments, Singhvi stated, “all disqualification proceedings are prior to resignations”. Singhvi said adjudication of the resignations by speaker is “confirmation of pre-existing fact”. Bar and Bench quoted Singhvi as saying the “first step” of inquiry by the speaker was the MLAs appearing before him. This had happened on July 11.

Singhvi argued that only 11 of the 15 MLAs who submitted resignations had personally handed over their papers to the speaker on July 11; four were yet to do so. Singhvi claimed “disqualification proceedings started in February, prior to the MLAs submitting resignation”. Singhvi sought a modification to the July 12 order, assuring that the speaker would decide on both resignations and disqualification proceedings by Wednesday.