New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld the disqualification of the 17 Karnataka MLAs on the orders of the then Assembly Speaker KR Ramesh Kumar but allowed their plea to contest the by-election to the seats that fell vacant.
A three-judge bench of the top court, comprising justices NV Ramana, Sanjeev Khanna and Krishna Murari heard the pleas of the lawmakers.
"We are upholding the order of the Speaker," said Justice Ramana while reading out the judgment.
The top court said that resignation does not take away the power of disqualification by the speaker.
"Since we are deciding disqualification, resignation is not needed to be gone into. As such there is no doubt that disqualification has nothing to do with resignation," the court said.
The rebel legislators were disqualified by the then speaker K R Ramesh Kumar in July under the anti-defection law after they tendered their resignation and were barred from contesting polls for the duration of the current Assembly, which is slated to end in 2023.
The move had led to fall of the Congress-JD(S) coalition government, paving way for the BJP to stake claim to form a new government in the state.
The legislators then moved the top court against the Speaker's decision to disqualify and bar them from contesting elections.
After their disqualification, the strength of the 224-member Assembly had come down to 207. This had brought down the majority mark to 104. Currently, the BJP, which helms the government in the state, has 106 MLAs in the Assembly. The opposition JD(S)-Congress has 101.
The MLAs can now contest the by-polls and are likely to contest as candidates of the BJP, which has to win at least six of the 15 seats to retain its slim majority as the majority mark will climb to 222.
By-polls to 15 out of 17 Assembly seats which fell vacant following the disqualification of MLAs are scheduled on December 5 and candidates are required to file their nomination papers between November 11 and November 18.