What next for Karnataka’s rebel MLAs? Unfolding scenarios and why Speaker’s role will be key

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Updated: July 9, 2019 5:24:26 PM

Karnataka crisis: With the deadlock far from over, and the BJP playing wait-and-watch, what are the likely scenarios that could emerge going forward? We take a look at some of them.

karnataka assembly, karnataka politics, karnataka news, karnataka government, karnataka latest news, karnataka cm, congress jds, mla resignations, Karnataka BJPJD(s) and Congress MLA at speaker’s office to submit their resignation in Bengaluru on July 6. (PTI)

Karnataka crisis: Karnataka Assembly Speaker KR Ramesh on Tuesday rejected the resignations of 13 MLAs — 10 from Congress, 3 from JD(S). The Speaker has asked all the legislators to meet in person and give their resignations by hand. Former Congress CM Siddaramaiah has warned the MLAs to withdraw their resignations or face disqualifications on the ground of anti-party activities. The fight between the party and the legislators is slowly entering the legal pitch where law and precedent will decide who wins this round.

With the deadlock far from over, and the BJP playing wait-and-watch, what are the likely scenarios that could emerge going forward? We take a look at some of them.

Resignations rejected – What next for MLAs?

Constitutional expert and former Secretary-General of Lok Sabha Subhash C Kashyap says: “Now all the legislators will have to appear before the Speaker and hand over their resignations to him. Because the Speaker has to satisfy himself that it is voluntary before acting on the resignations.” Does the Speaker have the right to reject the resignations even if the legislators appear before him? Kashyap says: “Resignations in writing given personally to the Speaker are presumed to be voluntary. The Speaker can ask if this is voluntary…if MLAs say – yes it is voluntary, then there is no question of rejecting.”

However, another constitutional expert and former Lok Sabha Secretary General PDT Achary is of the view that the Speaker does have the right to reject the resignations even if legislators say it is voluntary. According to him, even the ‘voluntary statement’ before the Speaker may not be ‘voluntary’. Explaining this, Achary says: “Suppose a legislator is under pressure, he will say what he has been asked to say…so if he says – it is voluntary, the Speaker has to find out whether it is ‘voluntary’ and ‘genuine’ – these words are in the Constitution. And if the Speaker finds that the resignations are not voluntary or genuine then he can reject them.”

What the Constitution says?  

Under Article 101 of the Indian Constitution, there is a proviso which says: “If from information received or otherwise and after making such inquiry as he thinks fit, the chairman or the speaker, as the case may be, is satisfied that such resignation is not voluntary or genuine, he shall not accept such resignation.”

Can MLAs challenge the Speaker’s decision?

While the Speaker has rejected the resignations of the rebel legislators, PDT Achary says the legislators can challenge the Speaker’s decision before the court. “They (MLAs) have every right to go to court. Because it is a constitutional provision that they can resign. This is their right. Every office holder has the right to resign. In this case, they can resign if the Speaker decides otherwise,” Achary says.

Can MLAs face disqualification?

Yes. The Speaker has the right to disqualify a member of the house on the ground that he indulged in anti-party activities under the Anti-Defection Law. But to disqualify a legislator, Kashyap says, the Speaker should receive a petition stating that he or she has indulged in an anti-party activity or they have voted against the party directives or disobeyed the party etc. “Then the Speaker can consider and give a proper hearing to all sides and decide. The power to disqualify under Ani-Defection Law is with the Speaker. And it is subject to judicial review. So one can go to the court challenging the decision of the Speaker,” Kashyap said.

What options do MLAs have now?

The legislators now have two options – appear before the Speaker and submit resignations or keep quiet till the Governor asks for the floor test. If the floor test happens, the MLAs — it is highly likely — will vote for the saffron party. The Congress-JDS government will fall and the new government will take over. The Congress may file a petition before the Speaker to disqualify their legislators who cross-voted during the floor test. The MLAs may not be disqualified then as the new Speaker (in this case, from BJP) can sit over the petition for years as there is no time limit for the speaker to decide on such application.

Congress and BJP — Who stands where?

The Congress (79) and JDS (37) together with the support of BSP (1) has formed the government. Their total strength – before the resignations – was 117 in the 224-member House. The BJP has 105 MLAs. Now that 10 legislators from Congress and 3 from JDS have withdrawn their support from the ruling coalition, the total strength of the government has come down to 104, lower than the BJP’s tally of 105. This may prompt the BJP to move a no-confidence motion against Kumaraswamy that will lead to a floor test.

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