The first round of legal battle over the Karnataka crisis seems to have gone in favour of the BJP with the Supreme Court allowing B S Yeddyurappa to take oath as the Chief Minister, but experts say the final victory for them would be to win the number game on the floor of the House. Experts like senior advocates Rakesh Dwivedi, Vikas Singh and noted constitutional lawyer Govind Goel said all eyes will be on the apex court on how it deals with the situation in which the Governor has granted 15 days to Yeddyurappa to prove majority, which the Congress-JD(S) combine has criticised saying it would lead to horse-trading. According to these legal experts, the court could appoint a neutral person as an observer for the floor test in the Karnataka Assembly.
Goel and Dwivedi were of a similar view that the top court could direct that the floor test be conducted in the presence of an observer, as was done in Uttarkhand in May 2016. The apex court had then directed the Principal Secretary, Legislative and Parliamentary Affairs (PSLPA), as a neutral person to monitor the floor test in Uttarakhand Assembly on May 10, 2016, when Chief Minister Harish Rawat had sought a vote of confidence, which he had won. The court had also directed that the entire proceedings shall be videographed under the supervision of the observer. However, Singh expressed disappointment over the manner in which the rare pre-dawn hearing was conducted at the apex court.
“I am little disappointed. The Supreme Court should have stayed the swearing-in because what was the point of hearing the plea midnight and then giving a go ahead to it and keeping the matter for tomorrow,” he said without going any further into the fate of the petition challenging the Governor’s decision. Goel said the court could say it would appoint a neutral person as an observer in whose presence the floor test will be conducted. He said the court could also strike down the decision of the Governor and say let him consider the material and decision as to who was in a position to provide a stable government in the state. Dwivedi was also of the opinion that the court could say that the floor test be videographed or a neutral person be present during the process in the assembly.
The Supreme Court had on March 9, 2015, directed the pro tem Speaker of the Jharkhand Legislative Assembly to conduct a composite floor test two days later to ascertain who enjoyed the majority — Chief Minister Shibu Soren, who was appointed by the Governor, or former Chief Minister Arjun Munda. The judges had then made it clear that the order shall be construed as the notice required for convening the Assembly on March 11, 2005 and no separate notice for that purpose would be required. They had ordered video recording of the entire proceedings and directed that a copy of the recording be placed before the court. Dwivedi, however, said that the court cannot say that the Governor’s invitation to Yeddyurappa to form government is set aside. That is not possible, he said, adding that the apex court cannot interefere too much with the legislature’s work.
“The Supreme Court might start the hearing tomorrow or give time to Karnataka government and Yeddyurappa to file their response. The court could also give them time to prove majority in the House,” he said. In the historic pre-dawn hearing, the apex court today cleared the last-minute hurdle created by the Congress-JD(S) combine for the BJP’s ambitious surge in the southern India by paving the way for Yeddyurappa to become the Chief Minister of Karnataka.
A specially constituted three-judge bench comprising Justices A K Sikri, S A Bobde and Ashok Bhushan, after more than three hours of hearing, made it clear that it was not interfering with the Governor’s decision to invite the saffron party to form government in the state in which BJP with 104 seats emerged as the single largest party.
It issued notices to Karnataka government and Yeddyurappa seeking their replies on the plea filed by Congress-JD (S) combine and posted the matter for hearing at 10.30 AM tomorrow. The court also directed the Centre to place before it two communications, sent by Yeddyurappa to Governor in which he had staked claim to form government, saying their perusal was necessary to decide the case.