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Karnataka Crisis: Rebel MLAs’ Supreme Court plea makes it all knotty

The LOGJAM Speaker’s ‘flimsy reasons’ for not accepting resignations may lead to a constitutional impasse according to experts.

, ET Bureau|
Updated: Jul 11, 2019, 11.59 AM IST
Congress and JD(S) members stage a demonstration on Raj Bhavan Road on Wednesday against alleged horse-trading by the BJP.
As the JD(S)-Congress coalition in Karnataka hangs by a thread, legal experts believe the stage is set for a constitutional crisis.

The delay by Assembly Speaker KR Ramesh Kumar in processing the resignation letters of (initially) 13 MLAs may have given a breather to the ruling coalition. But with 10 rebel legislators moving the Supreme Court alleging that Kumar deliberately delayed accepting their resignations, it is checkmate again.

Supreme Court advocate KV Dhananjay said with the rebel MLAs’ number rising to 16, the government can no longer make any important decisions. “Yet, amidst this political crisis, business is happening, including the mass transfer of 826 engineers on a single day (Tuesday). The government is also trying to expedite the process of selling land to JSW Steel in Ballari. All these decisions cannot be taken when the government has lost majority,” he said.

Former advocate-general Ashok Haranahalli agreed that a constitutional crisis is at hand, especially due to the Speaker’s refusal to accept the resignations over “flimsy reasons.” “If the Speaker is convinced that the MLAs have resigned without being coerced, then he should simply accept it. It appears the Speaker is delaying the process for political reasons, which is leading to a larger crisis,” Haranahalli said.

While the Supreme Court’s decision on the rebels’ resignation (likely to be heard on Wednesday) could decide the fate of the coalition swiftly, the possibility of the Congress disqualifying the rebels and the governor’s intervention could decide the next course of action for the three major parties in the state, which includes the BJP. “The governor may direct the chief minister to prove his majority. This could happen on Friday when the Assembly reopens. If the ruling coalition fails to prove its majority, the BJP could form the government,” said former advocate-general BV Acharya.

After the 2018 Assembly election, the Supreme Court, while hearing a case filed by the Congress-JD(S), had asked the BJP to prove its strength without delay. The governor had given the BJP 15 days to prove its majority. “The same could be applicable this time, too,” Acharya said.

Congress leaders are exploring the possibility of disqualifying the rebel legislators to prevent the BJP from forming a government. The plan, it appears, is to delay the acceptance of the resignation letters, issue a whip on Friday and disqualify those who remain absent.

Even disqualification is unlikely to help the Congress. “Legally, it is not possible to invoke the anti-defection law as the legislators have only resigned from the Assembly and not from the party. In fact, the government will be a minority even if the anti-defection law is applied to the 16 rebels,” Dhananjay said.

When the anti-defection law was invoked against some Tamil Nadu MLAs, the Election Commission had clarified that the disqualified legislators could contest bypolls. “Disqualification does not prohibit members from contesting polls for six years. They are free to contest bypolls,” Dhananjay said.


Amidst the political crisis, business is happening, including mass transfer of 826 engineers (on Tuesday). The govt is also trying to expedite the sale of land to JSW Steel. All these decisions cannot be taken when the govt has lost majority


Advocate, Supreme Court


If the Speaker is convinced the MLAs have resigned without being coerced, he should accept it. He is delaying the process for political reasons, which is leading to larger crisis


Former advocate-general

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