The Madhya Pradesh Congress Legislature party (MPCLP) moved the Supreme Court Tuesday seeking direction to the Centre and the BJP-led Karnataka government to grant it access to communicate with its rebel MLAs allegedly kept at Bengaluru.
The development came on the heels of the apex court asking the Kamal Nath government in the state earlier in the day to respond by Wednesday to a plea by senior BJP leader Shivraj Singh Chouhan seeking immediate floor test in the Assembly.
MPCLP, in its plea filed by Govind Singh, an MLA and chief whip of Congress legislature party, urged the apex court to declare as illegal the action of the Centre, Karnataka government and the MP BJP of illegally confining its MLAs in Bangaluru.
The plea, filed through senior lawyer Devdutt Kamat, said the trust vote would be a "sham" if 22 MLAs did not take part in it as almost 10 per cent of constituencies go unrepresented.
"In the instant case, as the 22 MLAs who represent 22 constituencies almost constituting 10 per cent of the total seats have purportedly resigned, the electorate of such constituencies are completely unrepresented.
"In these circumstances, a trust vote if held will be complete sham and would be antithetical to the principle of representative democracy which is the basic feature of the constitution," the plea said.
A floor test in such a situation ought to be held only after by-elections to the seats falling vacant as a result of the resignations have been held, the MPCLP said.
The plea also sought a direction to allowing its rebel MLAs to participate in the ongoing budget session.
The party also said that the trust vote can be held only in the presence of all the duly elected MLAs of the MP Assembly.
It said the communications of Governor Lalji Tandon asking the government to hold trust vote be declared as "illegal and unconstitutional".
The MPCLP said it was constrained to invoke the jurisdiction of the court to "uphold the rule of law and pass appropriate directions against the blatant abuse of power and subversion of democracy by the BJP-ruled state government of Karnataka".
It said the Centre and the Karnataka government have subverted constitutional limitations by exercising state power to aid MP BJP in its to attempt to bring down the democratically elected government.
"The said respondents (Centre and Karnataka government) have in order to benefit the BJP in MP have used the might and power of the state to hold 16/22 MLAs belonging to MPCLP in complete isolation in Bengaluru," it said.
The Congress MLAs have not been permitted to either contact the office bearers of the party or even their family members, it said.
Even the office bearers of the MPCLP have not been allowed to meet them despite numerous attempts being made, it alleged.
"It is relevant to note that although these MLAs have purportedly sent their resignation letters, none of them have resigned from the primary membership of Congress party," it said.
The confinement of Congress MLAs to prevent them from participating in the ongoing budget session of the legislative assembly in MP is not only an "outright subversion of the democratic ethos enshrined in the Constitution but is also a flagrant violation of Article 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution", it said
"The petition also challenges the unconstitutional messages sent by Governor in purported exercise of his powers under Article 174 read with Article 175 on March 14, 15 as well as on March 16.
"The said messages direct holding of floor test in the absences of 16/22 MLAs belonging to Congress is a fraud upon the Constitution played by the Constitutional authority itself and are completely beyond the realm of powers of the Governor," the plea alleged.
On Saturday night, Governor Lalji Tandon wrote to Nath asking him to seek a trust vote in the Assembly soon after the Governor's address on Monday, saying his government was in minority.
The Governor had also directed that the trust vote be held by division of votes and the process be recorded on video by the Vidhan Sabha through independent persons.
"The above work must be completed under any circumstances on March 16, 2020 and it should not be adjourned, delayed or suspended," he had said in the letter.
After the Speaker accepted the resignation of six Congress MLAs on Saturday, the party now has 108 legislators.
These include 16 rebel legislators who have also put in their papers but their resignations are yet to be accepted.
The BJP has 107 seats in the House, which now has an effective strength of 222, with the majority mark being 112.