Jaitley on Karnataka: Supreme Court final, not infallible

Jaitley on Karnataka: Supreme Court final, not infallible
New Delhi:  While the BJP has mounted a campaign against the Karnataka Governor's reported recommendation that President's Rule be imposed in the state, there is uneasiness in the party over the Supreme Court judgment that set aside the suspension of 11 BJP and five Independent MLAs by the Assembly Speaker.

On the party's official website, the Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Arun Jaitley, has written an article in which he says, "We live in a real world. We know what the MLAs did. They wanted the government to go...Even though the issue has become academic because the MLAs are back in BJP and the Supreme Court has held them to be members of the BJP and bound by its whips."

Arun Jaitley begins by writing, "The Government headed by B.S. Yeddyurappa has won most of the bye-elections in the last few years.  It has succeeded in the Municipal elections and Panchayat elections. The popularity of the government is not in doubt.  The Government has demonstrated support of over 121 MLAs in a House whose present strength is 223.  The Council of Ministers has requested the Governor to call a session of the Assembly on 16.5.2011.  The Governor has declined to call the session and instead sent a recommendation to the Centre.  The contents of the recommendation are not known.  The Press statement issued by the Raj Bhavan states that the basis of the recommendation is a recent judgement of the Supreme Court in the case of disqualification of MLAs. It appears unsound that a court judgement of the Karnataka High Court could be a basis for a recommendation of the Governor." 

He then details the MLAs' rebellion and the sequence of events thereafter. 

Jaitley ends by saying, "I am writing this because of the adverse consequences it (the order) has on the functioning of the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution.  An interpretation of this kind gives enough play of joints to potential defectors to misuse the provisions of the Tenth Schedule, play games with political morality and then put on an innocent expression and allege that they have done nothing wrong. The Tenth Schedule was legislated by the government headed by late Shri Rajiv Gandhi with a noble intention.  It was further strengthened by the NDA government.  Some provisions have been weakened by this judgement.  I am sure on a future date this judgement will be re-visited.

"The Supreme Court is final.  It is not infallible. Even erroneous views of the courts are binding. The Governor now seeks to rely on this reasoning in his recommendation to the Centre. These are the consequences that an erroneous judgement can inflict on the democracy.  We don't have to merely learn to live with these errors. An erroneous judgement is a challenge to the future to correct the error in to which the judgement has fallen."

Read the full article here

The Supreme Court order

Karnataka Governor HR Bhardwaj's reported suggestion that President's Rule be imposed is based on the Supreme Court order of last Friday, which said that 16 MLAs were disqualified incorrectly by the Speaker of the Karnataka Assembly ahead of a crucial vote of confidence that Mr Yeddyurappa narrowly survived last year.

The 16 MLAs include 11 from the BJP and five Independents who had supported the government but in October said they would not support the Chief Minister during his trust vote. They were disqualified by the Speaker under anti-defection laws. This weekend, the BJP MLAs made it clear that they were backing their party.

The Supreme Court, in its order of last week, had made some strong observations about the role of the Speaker and the Chief Minister in the process of disqualification of the MLAs. (Read: The Supreme Court remarks that triggered the crisis)

"Extraneous considerations are writ large on the face of the order of the Speaker and the same has to be set aside. The Speaker, in our view, proceeded in the matter as if he was required to meet the deadline set by the Governor, irrespective of whether, in the process, he was ignoring the constitutional norms set out in the Tenth Schedule and the Disqualification Rules, 1986, and in contravention of the basic principles that go hand in hand with the concept of a fair hearing," the court said.

"There was no compulsion on the Speaker to decide the disqualification application filed by Mr. Yeddyurappa in such a great hurry within the time specified by the Governor to conduct a vote of confidence in the government headed by Mr. Yeddyurappa. It would appear that such a course of action was adopted by the Speaker on October 10, 2010, since the vote of confidence was slated for October 12, 2010. The element of hot haste is also evident in the action of the Speaker. The procedure adopted by the Speaker seems to indicate that he was trying to meet the time schedule set by the Governor for the trial of strength and to ensure that the appellants and other independent MLAs stood disqualified prior to the date on which the floor test was to be held," the court added. 

The BJP battleplan

The BJP, meanwhile, is keeping up the pressure in its battle against Governor HR Bhardwaj. Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa is in the Capital and will parade his 121 MLAs before the President to show he has a majority on the floor of the House.

"We are 101 percent confident of a majority and staking claim to form government," Mr Yeddyurappa said ahead of parading the MLAs.

"Governor Bhardwaj has helped us strengthen our party. We have come here to save our government and Karnataka," he had said earlier this morning. (Watch)

He arrived in Delhi late last night and met party president Nitin Gadkari and other senior party leaders. He will also seek the removal of Governor Bhardwaj, who has reportedly recommended the dismissal of the BJP government in the state.

Leaders of the BJP-led NDA met the Prime Minister on Monday evening and, led by senior BJP leader Lal Krishna Advani, demanded an immediate recall of the Governor. Mr. Advani also said the Governor's action was unconstitutional and should not be acted upon. (Read - Karnataka crisis: BJP leaders meets PM, demands Governor's recall)

"Despite the fact that the Chief Minister said he wanted to convene the Assembly, the Governor did not. If the Chief Minister wants to convene the house, it cannot be denied," said Mr Advani. He also called the Supreme Court judgement a 'blessing in disguise' since the BJP now has a clearer majority in the 225-member Karnataka Assembly.

Mr. Advani also told reporters that, "The Prime Minister assured us that nothing unconstitutional will be done in Karnataka."

Sources in the government say that the cabinet is not in a rush to discuss the Governor's contentious report.

The Karnataka Assembly has 225 seats; without the 11 BJP 'rebel' MLAs, Mr Yeddyurappa will have 109 supporters, which is short of the half-way mark of 117.  So their support is crucial for his government.


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