New Delhi: The Supreme Court of India (SC) on Wednesday delivered its judgement on aspects of anti-defection law also known as the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution.
The anti-defection law was inserted in the Constitution in 1985 by the 52nd Amendment Act with the intention of curbing horsetrading in Assemblies and Parliament.
The verdict of November 13 had to do with the disqualification of the 17 'rebel' MLAs of the Congress and Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) in Karnataka.
The MLAs were disqualified from the 16th Karnataka Legislative Assembly by the then Speaker, Ramesh Kumar on July 25 and July 28 this year under the anti-defection law and were barred from contesting elections during the tenure of current assembly until 2023.
The judgement has bearing on the upcoming Karnataka bypolls which are scheduled for December 5.
It will also hold weight on the future of the BJP government headed by CM B S Yediyurappa.
The major inferences,The Indian Express reports, which can be drawn from today's verdict of SC are:
1. The lawmakers who are disqualified under the anti-defection law cannot be barred from contesting elections during the tenures of an incumbent Legislative Assembly.
2. It also sent across a message that disqualification proceedings do not under the Tenth Schedule gain precedence over the acceptance of resignations of MLAs in a situation where the Speaker has simultaneously processed the resignations of MLAs, and pleas for their disqualification.
On what grounds were the MLAs disqualified?
The 2018 elections produced a hung assembly. In a House of 224 seats, the BJP won 104 seats, the Congress 80, and JD-S 37 seats. Three seats belonged to others.
When the BJP failed to gather a majority after three days of Yediyurappa being the caretaker CM, the Congress and JDS formed an alliance and took over the reins of the Karnataka government. HD Kumaraswamy of the JD(S) then became CM of Karnataka.
In July 2019, 14 MLAs from the Congress and three from the JD(S) quit the assembly because they were unhappy with the government.
Their resignations were seen as the BJP's attempt to topple the government in Karnataka. After this, the Congres and the JDS sought the MLAs' disqualification and restraint on them from contesting elections.
On July 23, as the 17 rebel MLAs steered clear from the Assembly and the Congress-JDS government collapsed during a trust vote.
On July 26, the BJP staked claim to form a new government under Yediyurappa.
On July 25 and 28, the then Speaker KR Ramesh Kumar issued two separate orders under anti-defection law, disqualifying the 17 MLAs from the house and barring them from contesting elections during the tenure of the current assembly.
The disqualified MLAs subsequently, sought the SC asking the Speakers' orders to be quashed.
The Congress ad the JDS also sought the court seeking enforcement of the disqualifications.
How the SC's verdict will impact the upcoming by-polls on December 5:
The SC on November 13 passed the verdict that the rebel MLAs can contest the bypolls. This, essentially increases the chances of the Yediyurappa government to sustain in Karnataka as all the rebel MLAs are likely to contest from BJP.
The BJP will now decide on its nominees from the disqualified MLAs.
When the rebel MLAs resigned in July to topple the Kumaraswamy government, they were promised by the BJP that they would be returned to the house on BJP tickets and would be given important positions.
Initially, the bypolls were scheduled for October 21 with Maharashtra and Haryana. They were postponed to December 5 after the Election Commission told the SC that it would wait for the outcome of the 17 rebel MLAs.
Yediyurappa currently has the support of 106 MLAs in the Assembly out of which one is independent, while the opposition with the Congress and JD(S) combined has 101 seats.
The Karnataka assembly has 224 seats with 17 vacancies.
According to an Indian Express report, elections will not take place at two out of the 17 vacant seats which are Rajarajeshwari Nagar and Maski as separate election petitions challenging the results of the 2018 elections are pending in Karnataka High Court.
The BJP will have to win six out of 15 seats and seven out of 17 to keep its majority. It still, however, relies on the support of the Independent, and should ideally win at least one extra seat in both thee situations for a clear majority of its own.
There are 14 vacancies in the council of ministers in which Yediyurappa intends to accommodate the rebels now that they are allowed to contest the elections.
However, the opposition is likely to give these MLAs a tough competition.
Another alternative for the BJP is to tie up with the JD(S), which has lately been showing the inclination to support BJP after its relations have soured with the Congress.