The Supreme Court has directed a floor test on Saturday to ascertain the support to Karnataka Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa in the 224-member assembly and barred him from taking any policy decisions till then.
Directing the floor test at 4 p.m, a bench of Justice A.K. Sikri, Justice S.A. Bobde and Justice Ashok Bhushan on Friday said the pro-tem Speaker, the senior most member of the House, would administer the newly-elected members their oath and then conduct the floor test.
The court also rejected Yeddyurappa's plea, made through senior counsel Mukul Rohatgi, for a week's time to face the floor test.
Before passing the order for floor test, the court noted that the adjudication of question whether Governor's decision inviting Yeddyurappa to form government is valid in law or not would consume substantial time and final decision cannot be given immediately, and hence, the court decided to take up the issue after vacations.
Having postponed the examination on the main issue for a later date, Justice Sikri said: "We deem it fit and proper that floor test to ascertain majority be conducted immediately."
The court also rejected Attorney General K.K. Venugopal's suggestion that the floor test be conducted through secret ballot.
The BJP won 104 seats in the assembly elections held in 222 out of total 224 seats, falling eight short of the 112 halfway mark. The Congress won 78 seats and the Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) 37. The Congress later said it would support a JD-S-led government.
The court also restrained nomination of an Anglo-Indian member.
The election to one seat was countermanded after the death of a candidate.
The court also directed the Karnataka Director General of Police to personally ensure the security of newly-elected lawmakers.
At the outset of the hearing, senior counsel Rohatgi produced before the court two communications from the Chief Minister to Governor Vajubhai R. Vala staking claim to form government, which said that besides 104 BJP MLAs "I have the support of others and have requisite majority."
Resisting the floor test on Saturday, Rohatgi said that both Congress and JD-S have "locked their people" but "I have to gather my flock together".
"MLAs have to come, apply their mind and vote freely."
He said the MLAs belonging to "unholy alliance" of the Congress and the JD-S have been "detained and threatened" in Kochi are being prevented to "vote according to their conscience".
Taking a jibe at Rohatgi's concern over the "locking" of the two parties' legislators, senior counsel Kapil Sibal, appearing for JD-S leader Kumaraswamy, said: "Their problem is that they (MLAs) are not approachable."
On the lighter side, Justice Sikri referred to a tweet wherein the owner of the resort where 117 MLAs are lodged has said that he has the majority with him.
Taking a dig at the Governor giving Yeddyurappa 15 days' time to prove majority, senior counsel Abhishek Manu Singhvi described Vala's decision as an "enabling act with a small window" to "manufacture" majority support by poaching the Congress and the JD-S MLAs.
He said this could not be the interpretation of the exercise of power in "discretion" of the Governor.
This "is not, can't be, shouldn't be" the interpretation of "discretion" in the exercise of powers by the Governor, said Singhvi appearing for G. Parameshwara -- President of the Karnataka Cogress -- who had moved the court on behalf of the party.
At this, Justice Sikri said: "Discretion may be there in case of hard cases. But in easy cases, it is not there. Problem comes when nobody has a majority. If this exercise has to be done objectively, he has to be satisfied."
Sibal said that discretion can be exercised in furtherance of constitutional morality and asked: "Will this court permit constitutional immorality?"
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