The Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld the disqualification of 17 rebel Karnataka MLAs but allowed them to contest the by-elections to be held on December 5.
The legislators had moved the top court against the speaker’s decision to disqualify and bar them from contesting elections under the anti-defection law till the current assembly expires in 2023.
“We are upholding the order of the Speaker [on disqualification],” said a bench of the Supreme Court. A three-judge bench of the top court, comprising justices NV Ramana, Sanjeev Khanna and Krishna Murari heard the pleas of the lawmakers.
The court said that if elected in the bypolls, the disqualified MLAs can become ministers or hold public office, news agency PTI reported. The court said its verdict is based on facts and circumstances of case and does not interfere in Speaker’s power to disqualify members.
The court also disapproved of the manner in which the disqualified MLAs directly approached it without first going to the high court.
The Congress and Janata Dal Secular lawmakers had resigned their seats in July before shifting to resorts and hotels in Mumbai. The Congress and JD(S) had alleged that they were sequestered, allegedly by BJP leaders, to prevent them from changing their mind.
Their resignations reduced the then JD(S)-Congress government to minority. KR Ramesh, who was the speaker before the HD Kumaraswamy-led coalition government lost its majority, however, ruled that they had violated the anti-defection law and disqualified them till the end of the term.
The verdict can be seen as an advantage for Karnataka chief minister BS Yediyurappa who will be able to induct the rebel MLAs in his cabinet if they win the bypolls.
The BJP has the support of 106 MLAs in the 224-member Karnataka assembly. The opposition JDS-Congress has 101 MLAs in its fold.