The Supreme Court on Wednesday said the discretion of the Karnataka Assembly Speaker in deciding on the resignation of 15 rebel legislators should not be fettered by a direction or observations of court, adding the MLAs cannot be compelled to attend the house proceedings tomorrow.
In an interim order, the apex court also said the Speaker is free to decide on the resignations within an appropriate time frame but didn't to set one for him.
Reacting to the order, Speaker KR Ramesh Kumar welcomed the decision and said the order had increased his responsibility. "I will make a decision that in no way will go contrary to the Constitution, the Court and the Lokpal," news agency ANI quoted him as saying.
Speaking to reporters outside the Supreme Court, senior lawyer Mukul Rohatgi, representing 15 rebel MLAs, said that according to the order, rebel MLAs cannot be compelled to attend the proceedings in the Karnataka Assembly tomorrow. "They have the liberty to attend or not attend the House tomorrow," he said.
He also said, "The Speaker has been given time to decide on the resignations as and when he wants to decide."
Former Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa said the current CM HD Kumaraswamy has lost the mandate and therefore he must resign tomorrow. "I welcome SC's decision. It's the victory of constitution and democracy, a moral victory for rebel MLAs."
The order of the Supreme Court is being seen as a setback to the Congress-JD(S) ruling coalition in Karnataka since the MLAs cannot be forced to attend the Assembly, and therefore may or may not participate in the trust vote on Thursday.
The plea was filed by Pratap Gouda Patil, Ramesh Jarkhiholi, Byrati Basavaraj, B C Patil, S T Somashekar, Arbail Sivaram Hebbar and Mahesh Kumathalli from Congress and K Gopalaiah, H D Vishwanath and Narayan Gowda from JD(S).
Five other rebel MLAs - K Sudhakar, Roshan Baig, MTB Nagaraj, Muniratna and Anand Singh - had approached the court on July 13 contending they had resigned "voluntarily" and that their resignation must be accepted by the Speaker.
The 13-month-old Congress-JD(S) government had plunged into a crisis after the MLAs resigned from the membership of the Assembly earlier this month.
(With inputs from agencies)