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SC refuses to urgently hear Karnataka rebel MLAs’ petitions, leaves them clueless

New Delhi | Bengaluru: The Supreme Court on Thursday refused a plea to have an urgent hearing of the petitions filed by the Karnataka MLAs who were disqualified by the speaker before a regime change in the state, throwing their political future into jeopardy.

These MLAs, whose rebellion had pulled down the previous Janata Dal (S)-Congress government in Karnataka, want to be inducted into the new BJP ministry and contest elections anew. With their petitions against disqualification pending in the court, technically these seats cannot be declared vacant and since the speaker’s order still stands, they cannot join the ministry in any position.

They had urged the court to set aside their disqualification order by the assembly speaker as illegal and unconstitutional. They argued that they could not have been disqualified when they had first sent in their resignations on which the speaker had yet to take a call.

The disqualified MLAs’ plea was mentioned on an urgent out-of-turn basis before a bench led by Justice NV Ramana. “What is the urgency in the case? It will come in the usual course,” Justice Ramana said.

The disqualified MLAs find themselves neither here nor there, which has been the case ever since a political crisis broke out in Karnataka, leading to the collapse of the JD(S)-Congress regime, and the BJP taking over the state’s reins.

Of the 17 MLAs disqualified in July by the then speaker, KR Ramesh Kumar, 13 are from the Congress, and three from the JD(S). One member, R Shankar, was an independent but Ramesh Kumar disqualified him as well claiming that he had joined the Congress.

Disqualification of the MLAs had thrown a spanner in the BJP’s works. The party as well as these MLAs had thought the speaker would accept their resignations so that some of them could become part of the BJP ministry and contest by-elections later.

But that was not to be. The disqualified MLAs are worried because they had hoped for a temporary relief from the Supreme Court.

Chief minister BS Yediyurappa, who expanded the cabinet on August 20, has kept 16 ministerial berths vacant to reward the disqualified MLAs at a later date. The CM is conscious that the BJP regime had been possible because of the resignations these MLAs gave, antagonising their party leaders.

According to BJP sources, the disqualified MLAs are bothered only about the disqualification part, and not resignation which they wanted the speaker to accept.

They are also not so much bothered about the speaker’s order barring them from contesting elections for the reminder of the five-year term of the current assembly.

“I don’t think they have any hurdles to contest bypolls in their respective constituencies,” said a BJP leader, citing an Election Commission order in a case in Tamil Nadu.

The Election Commission clarified last year that under the anti-defection law, or the 10th Schedule of the Constitution, there was no bar on disqualified lawmakers from contesting by-elections whenever they were held. Defection disqualifies a member from holding his or her current elected office, but not from contesting future elections, the commission had clarified.

Source: Economic Times