A full Bench of the Karnataka High Court on Monday upheld the disqualification of five independents from the Assembly. It held that the legislators, by their action, formed part of the Bharatiya Janata Party and consequently their withdrawal of support to the government attracted disqualification.
In an order passed on October 10, Speaker K.G. Bopaiah held that D. Sudhakar, Venkataramanappa, Gulihatti D. Shekar, Shivaraj S. Tangadagi and P.M. Narendra Swamy, by attending the BJP legislature party meetings and by other actions (including the party whip received by them) violated the provisions of the anti-defection law.
The Bench observed: “We hope and trust that the elected members of the House would realise the avowed object of the Tenth Schedule.” The elected members shall strengthen the fabric of parliamentary democracy by curbing unprincipled and unethical political defections.
The same day, the Speaker passed another order disqualifying 11 other legislators, all belonging to the BJP. The High Court upheld this order, which has since been challenged in the Supreme Court, and its orders are awaited.
Based on a complaint by the government Chief Whip and after observing the requisite procedure, the Speaker disqualified the 16 legislators (including the five independents) a day ahead of the crucial first trust vote faced by Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa on October 11.
No material support
Delivering the 192-page verdict on Monday, Justice Mohan Shanatanagoudar, Justice S. Abdul Nazeer and Justice A.S. Bopanna said: “We are of the considered opinion that the impugned action of the Speaker is not actuated by mala fides as alleged by the petitioners,” and pointed out that the petitioners — the disqualified MLAs — had not placed any material in support of their allegation.
Relief for Yeddyurappa
The order comes as a breather for Mr. Yeddyurappa, who is facing a series of problems threatening the survival of his government. “It is a historic judgment that will go a long way in strengthening the roots of democracy and restricting legislators from anti-party activities. It is a big lesson to all the MLAs and MPs and all ‘ayarams' and ‘gayarams' in this State and other States. I welcome the court decision. It is a victory for the legislative process,” the Chief Minister said.
The five legislators have since decided to move the Supreme Court.