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    Supreme Court ruling on Karnataka MLAs may redefine powers of speakers

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    The Supreme Court on Friday reserved its verdict on petitions filed by 15 disqualified Congress and JD(S) MLAs and the final outcome may break new ground on the Speaker’s powers, including on rejection of resignation by members of the assembly.

    During the last leg of final arguments on the rebel’s petitions, a bench of Justices N V Ramana, Sanjiv Khanna and Krishna Murari appeared to disapprove of senior advocate Kapil Sibal’s contention, on behalf of Congress, that the Speaker was well within his rights to inquire into the motive behind the resignations of MLAs and reject them if he had reasons to believe that the MLAs were planning to join another party and seek re-entry into the assembly by contesting bypolls.

    “If an MLA is honest about his resignation, he would go to the Speaker and inform him that he was resigning to join another party. The MLA owes it to his constituency and the party on whose ticket he had got elected to the assembly,” Sibal said.

    Senior advocate Devadatt Kamat said none of the MLAs contested the speaker’s remarks about their anti-party activities and defiance of party whips which led to their disqualification. But the SC focussed on the resignations of the MLAs.

    The Speaker, who had received the resignations prior to petitions seeking their disqualification, had rejected their resignations and disqualified them from contesting again till the end of the assembly’s term in 2024.

    The Justice Ramana-led bench asked three questions to counter Sibal’s argument, “Suppose a particular MLA faced certain controversy and decided to get a fresh command from the electorate of his constituency, can the Speaker reject his resignation saying he was seeking to come back to the House?

    Second, suppose electorate of a particular constituency has a certain stand and the party to which the MLA belongs acts contrary to that stand, can’t the MLA resign and seek re-election?

    Third, suppose a ruling party passes a legislation to which the MLA and his constituency is dead against, can the speaker reject his resignation?”

    Sibal agreed that these questions could arise and argued that the very complexity of the questions was the reason why he was requesting the bench to refer the issues arising from these petitions, including the speaker’s powers, to a five-judge constitution bench.

    “These questions about Speaker’s powers have never been examined by the SC in the past and it would be better if the law is interpreted by a constitution bench,” he said.

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