The Karnataka Ministers, G. Karunakara Reddy, G. Janardhana Reddy and B. Sriramulu, questioned Governor H.R. Bhardwaj's authority to refer a petition seeking their disqualification as members of the legislature, filed by Congress MLC K.C. Kondaiah, to the Election Commission (EC) for its “opinion.”

The trio denied that at any point of time they influenced, using their powers as Ministers, the withdrawal of criminal cases registered by the State police against some persons. They were not doing any business involving “office of profit” and their mining business was confined only to Andhra Pradesh and it had been there even before they got elected.

Reacting to the “comments” sought by the Election Commission, the three Ministers, whose reply was sent through their legal counsel, claimed that the Governor had no authority to act against them. His action was “bad in the eye of law” and the EC had to reject it on the ground that it had been sent by him after having held an enquiry and forming an opinion “without any authority.”

The EC was under a Constitutional obligation to prima facie satisfy itself as to the existence of any question and it was only thereafter that a notice could be issued, they claimed. “On perusal of the order of reference of the Governor, the only question that could be gathered is with reference to illegal mining, which cannot be looked into by the commission,” Mr. Karunakara Reddy stated, adding that “this notice has been an unprecedented case both for the Governor as well as the EC.”

“No role”

Denying that he was involved in massive mining business in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, Mr. Janardhana Reddy said that it was not for the first time, after becoming a member of the Legislative Council, he was carrying out mining operations.

“It pre-existed the elections and, therefore, the reference is not maintainable on this point” and could not be looked into by the EC, he argued.

Mr. Sriramulu contended that if the Governor received any such petition, his duty was not to refer it to the EC for its opinion, but to raise a “question.” “In the present case, the Governor failed to raise a ‘question'... and the Constitution does not permit the EC to give its opinion on it,” he said adding that the EC could not give its opinion on the ground that the reference made by the Governor itself was “bad in law.”