The post-poll alliance between the Congress and the Janata Dal (Secular) received a shot in the arm Friday with the Supreme Court ordering a floor test at 4 PM on Saturday, rejecting a demand by Bharatiya Janata Party’s counsel Mukul Rohatgi to delay the floor test by at least a week. The court also rejected Rohatgi’s demand for a secret ballot. The crucial hearing in the Supreme Court over the petition filed by the Congress and JD(S) contesting Karnataka Governor Vasubhai Vala’s invitation to the BJP began with Mukul Rohtagi submitting the letters of BS Yeddyurappa (dated May and 16) addressed to the Governor to the bench of Justices AK Sikri, SA Bobde and Ashok Bhushan. According to ANI, the letters stated that Yeddyurappa has been elected as leader of the largest party, BJP, and he has support of necessary MLAs. Besides, it adds that Yeddyurappa is ready to prove majority on the floor of the House.
Rohtagi claimed that the BJP has numbers to prove majority on the floor of the House. “We will show the numbers (majority) where it is required, why should we show the numbers in SC,” he told the court. Rohtagi added that many MLAs from other parties have not signed the letters of the Congress-JD(S) submitted to the Governor. “We have certain information that many MLAs from other parties have not given any kind of written support to Congress-JD(S),” he said.
The SC bench however sought to know on what basis the Governor invites a party to form a stable government. To this, Mukul Rohtagi said that he does want to submit anything at this stage. The court observed that Yeddyurappa has claimed the support in his letters and has argued that the BJP is the single largest party. The court said that there could be two probabilities – whether Governor’s decision has to be tested or a floor test has to be held on Saturday.
Justice Sikri said that a ‘floor test seems to be the best option.’ The court then said that it is just the number and that who enjoys the majority should be invited to form the government. He proposed to conduct a floor test on Saturday.
“It is just the number game, who enjoys the majority should be invited to form the government,” Justice Sikri said. “Only alternative is a floor test for tomorrow, can’t give more time.”
Senior lawyer Abhishek Manu Singhvi, arguing for the Congress, contended that even then the Congress and JD(S) should be given chance to prove majority in the House first. The court reiterated that floor test is the best option. “Let the larger question on law how should Governor invite a person to form the government can be settled here later,” the SC said.
Singhvi then questioned whether such claims by BJP claiming majority to stake claim to form government need some specific evidence or not. Singhvi said that in the absence of the evidence, the entire claim may just an assertion that ‘give me a chance, I will manufacture majority’. The SC said that these are debatable issues. Kapil Sibal, who was also present inside the courtroom, said that these are settled issues. He pointed out faults in the Governor’s invitation even as Singhvi agreed for a floor test tomorrow.
Rohatgi then questioned the signatures of MLAs submitted by JD(S) leader Kumaraswamy to the Governor and agreed that floor test is the only option.
ASG Tushar Mehta,representing the Governor, said that Governor has not received any letter with Congress-JD(S) MLAs’ signatures along with the letter written by Congress or JD(S) while staking claim to form government.
Sibal later said that JD(S) also wants immediate floor test. The Supreme Court told the Governor not to nominate any Anglo-Indian community member as MLA till the floor test is over.
Rohatgi opposed the floor test tomorrow saying ‘need time’. The court said that there are past precedents of fixing such period for conducting floor test. Rohtagi again pleaded not to order floor test on Saturday. He urged the court to order floor test on Monday. He also cited the principles laid down by the Sarkaria Commission that grants 30 days time to prove majority. But the Supreme Court refused his arguments and ordered floor test for tomorrow at 4 pm.
Speaking to reporters outside the Supreme Court, Singhvi said that the court ordered a floor test tomorrow at 4 pm and ruled that the member from the Anglo-Indian community can’t be nominated. Singh informed that the court said that all MLAs should be administered oath before the floor test. Besides, he said that the top court also said that Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa can’t take any policy decisions till tomorrow.
On Thursday morning, the court had refused to stay the swearing-in of Yeddyurappa and ordered the BJP to present the letters sent to Governor dated May 15 and 16 today when it would resume hearing. The BJP has 104 MLAs, 8 less from the halfway mark needed to prove majority in Karnataka Assembly which comprises 225 members including one nominated member. The Congress has 78 MLAs and the JD(S)+ has 38 MLAs.