Karnataka House adjourned despite fresh ‘deadlines’
The Speaker KR Ramesh adjourned the House and said that the debate on trust vote shall continue until Monday.
Karnataka chief minister HD Kumaraswamy on Friday defiantly missed a third deadline set by the governor to prove he still has a majority in the assembly, questioning the latter’s right to dictate legislative proceedings as the House was adjourned until Monday and the vote of confidence delayed beyond the weekend.
Kumaraswamy and Karnataka Congress chief Dinesh Gundu Rao moved separate petitions in the Supreme Court accusing governor Vajubhai Vala of interfering in the assembly’s proceedings during the debate on the trust vote, after missing a 1.30pm deadline specified by the governor, who later set a 6pm time limit that was overshot with speaker KR Ramesh Kumar adjourning the proceedings.
The first deadline had been for the vote to be taken up by end of Thursday.
“Governor has again sent a communication that the trust vote should be held before 6pm on 19.07.2019. The aforesaid directions of the Governor are completely contrary to the well settled law laid down by this Court in relation to the Governor’s powers,” Kumaraswamy, 59, said in his petition.
“It is respectfully submitted that no such direction could have been issued by the Governor when the confidence motion has already been initiated,” the plea said, noting that the trust motion had been introduced and a debate on it was underway.
Both applications also sought the top court’s clarification on its interim order that rebel lawmakers could not be compelled to attend the assembly proceedings, which conflicts with party whips issued by both the Congress and the Janata Dal (Secular) to their MLAs to be present in the House and vote on the trust motion. The interim order whittles the power of a political party to issue whips to its members under the anti-defection law, they argued.
The adjournment until Monday gives the Congress and JD(S) the weekend to try and win back the rebels, whose resignations this month plunged the government into its gravest crisis since coming to office in May 2018 by forming a hastily cobbled coalition to keep the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) from coming to power after elections made it the single-largest party in the assembly.
Of the 13 Congress and three JD(S) MLAs who have quit, one has returned to the former’s fold. If the resignations are accepted or the rebels disqualified, it wold bring the strength of the 225-member assembly (one nominated MLA is allowed to participate in a trust vote) down to 209 and reduce the strength of the coalition to 101. The BJP’s strength would be 105, giving it a majority.
Kumaraswamy indicated in the assembly that he was in no mood to give in to the governor’s dictates, telling the speaker: “I leave the decision on the floor test to you…. It will not directed by Delhi. I request you to protect me from the letter sent by the governor.”
He held up photographs of BJP workers escorting lawmakers of the ruling coalition to Mumbai, where they have been sequestered in a hotel for days.The chief minister also recalled how the governor had ordered clear passage for the legislators through Bengaluru’s congested roads the last time the rebels were in town to appear before the speaker.
Speaker Ramesh Kumar said that unless the discussion was completed, the Opposition cannot press for the division of the vote. He said that whether or not the governor’s order has to be followed, “it has to be decided by the chief minister because the letter was sent to him, so he has to decide”.
BJP Karnataka president and former chief minister BS Yeddyurappa said: “We respect you, speaker sir. Governor’s last letter said the vote should finish today. People on our side will sit peacefully till late in the night. Let it take however long it takes and it will also mean that we can respect governor’s direction.”
Vala wrote his second letter after the state assembly, following a day of chaotic proceedings and sloganeering, was adjourned until Friday without voting on the motion of confidence introduced by Kumaraswamy.
“The fact that 15 members have met me and tendered their resignations and coupled with 2 [independent] members have withdrawn their support and other attendant circumstances do prima facie indicate that you have lost majority/confidence of the House,” he wrote.
Constitutional experts, meanwhile, were divided over the power of a governor to issue directions to an assembly speaker.
Former Lok Sabha secretary general Subhash Kashyap said that under Article 175 of the Constitution, the governor had “every right” to send a message to the House, and the legislature was duty-bound to take action on it with “all convenient dispatch” (at the earliest).
But another former Lok Sabha secretary genera,PDT Acharya, said that in Karnataka’s case, the governor had “stretched” the definition of Article 175 of the Constitution.
“It is an extraordinary step that the governor has taken. Ultimately the court will decide whether the governor has this right or not.... The speaker has the right over proceedings of the House. No other authority has any control over the speaker so far as the conduct of proceedings is concerned,” he said.