Karnataka High Court on Monday adjourned to January 17 the hearing on the petitions of five independent MLAs challenging their disqualification from the Assembly under the anti-defection law in October last year.

As the final hearing resumed, senior counsel P.P. Rao, appearing for the MLAs, argued that Speaker K G Bopaiah’s October 10 order disqualifying them was “totally perverse”.

Rao submitted before the full bench, comprising Justice Mohan Shantanagoudar, Justice S Abdul Nazeer and Justice A.S. Bopanna, that the order was “manipulative” to save the government, noting that it had been issued just hours before the vote of confidence by the BJP government.

He argued that each independent MLA is a “separate group” and the Assembly records showed them as independents; neither was there any communication to the Speaker to say that they have joined BJP.

“There is total lack of evidence (to suggest that they have joined BJP)”, Rao contended. His arguments remained inconclusive.

The five MLAs P.M. Narendraswamy, Shivaraj S Thangadagi, Venkataramanappa, D Sudhakar and Gulihatti D Shekhar were disqualified along with 11 BJP MLAs after they withdrew their support to B.S. Yeddyurappa government.

The 16 MLAs were disqualified on the basis of a complaint filed by Mr. Yeddyurappa on October 7. The disqualifications came on the eve of the BJP government seeking a trust vote.

The high court had upheld the disqualification of the 11 BJP MLAs and their appeal challenging the order is pending before the Supreme Court.