With the Supreme Court on Wednesday ruling that the 15 rebel Members of Legislative Assembly (MLA) of the Congress-Janta Dal (Secular) government cannot be forced to take part in Assembly proceedings, the state government led by Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy looked all set to fall.
In its interim order on Wednesday, though the three-judge bench led by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said that legislative assembly Speaker K R Ramesh Kumar was free to decide on the resignation of the 15 MLAs within a time-frame he considered appropriate, the rider that these MLAs should not be forced to take part in the proceedings of the house sounded the death knell for the Kumaraswamy government.
“We also make it clear that until further orders, the 15 members of the Assembly ought not to be compelled to participate in the proceedings of the ongoing session of the House and an option should be given to them that they can take part in the proceedings or opt to remain out of the same. We order accordingly,” the three judge bench said.
The Congress-JD (S) government had a total of 117 MLAs in its fold, before 16 of these elected representatives--13 from the Congress, three from JD(S)--resigned about 10 days ago. Two other independent MLAs, S Shankar and H Nagesh have also since withdrawn their support to the coalition government. With 99 MLAs by his side, it will take a mammoth effort on the part of Kumaraswamy to save the coalition from falling when he takes the trust vote on July 18 to save his 14-month-old government. The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party has 107 MLAs in the 225-member House, which includes the nominated MLA and the Speaker.
The Supreme Court’s interim order came on a plea moved by nearly 10 rebel MLAs who had been staying at a hotel in Mumbai since they had resigned from the government. In their plea before the top court, the MLAs had alleged that the Speaker of the assembly was not doing his constitutional duty by refusing to accept their resignation from the government. The Speaker of the legislative assembly, had, however, refuted the allegations and said that he would have to verify that the resignations were genuine before accepting them.
While the top court’s order was welcomed by the rebel MLAs, who said that there was no question of their going back on the resignations “at any cost”, Speaker Kumar said that he would conduct himself “responsibly in accordance with constitutional principle”.
Congress’ chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala expressed displeasure at the top court’s ruling and said that it nullified operation of Constitution's 10th Schedule to punish MLAs betraying the public mandate. In a series of tweets, Surjewala said that the Supreme Court order had given “blanket protection to MLAs, who are driven not by ideology but by far baser concerns”.