The Supreme Court today confirmed the disqualification of 17 Karnataka MLAs whose revolt triggered the collapse of the Janata Dal Secular-Congress government but, the court cancelled the Speaker’s decision to bar the rebel MLAs from contesting polls till 2023.
“In a parliamentary democracy, morality is equally binding on the government and the opposition,” the Supreme Court said, upholding the then Speaker’s decision to disqualify the rebels in July.
Fourteen rebel MLAs of the Congress and three of the JDS were disqualified under the anti-defection law by the Speaker in July. The Supreme Court said the “taint of disqualification does not vaporise by tendering a resignation letter to the Speaker”.
The Speaker also said the MLAs cannot contest elections until the term of the current assembly ends in 2023. That decision stands cancelled by the Supreme Court, which said the Speaker is “not empowered” to disqualify any member till the end of the term.
Soon after the verdict, the Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa hinted that the MLAs will contest by-polls to fill the constituencies as BJP candidates. His deputy Ashwath Narayan stated that all the MLAs would join the BJP tomorrow in Bengaluru.
The by-polls for vacant seats in the assembly will be held on December 5.
“I welcome the decision of the Supreme Court. All 17 MLAs can contest elections. From tomorrow we are going all out in all Assembly constituencies. 100 per cent we are going to win all 17 seats,” Yediyurappa told reporters.
As the 17 MLAs quit and refused to return to the assembly, the JDS-Congress coalition fell during a trust vote on July 23, after which the BJP staked claim to power.
The MLAs had petitioned the Supreme Court asking for their disqualification to be cancelled. The JDS and Congress also went to the court saying the disqualifications must be enforced.
The BJP has the support of 106 MLAs in the 224-member assembly including one independent. The opposition JDS-Congress has 101.
Therefore the results of the by-polls would be crucial to determine who would run the government.