Karnataka Assembly Speaker K.R. Ramesh Kumar said he has disqualified 14 more rebel MLAS - bringing the total of disqualified MLAs 17 - till the end of the Assembly term with immediate effect, a day ahead of the trust vote. This has reduced the strength of the House to 208.
During a hurriedly-convened press conference, Mr. Kumar said that he has disqualified 14 MLAs - 11 from Congress and 3 from JDS - in addition to the three rebel Congress MLAs he had disqualified on July 25 .
New Chief Minister and BJP leader B.S. Yediyurappa is slated to take the trust vote on Monday. Now the simple majority is 105, which is equal to the strength of BJP in the house. In addition to this, the party has the support of one independent MLA, H. Nagesh, taking their strength to 106. The coalition government recently polled a strength of 99. This is expected to help Mr. Yediyurappa sail through the trust vote on Monday.
The Speaker said that the Yediyurappa government has sought to pass the Finance Bill as the vote on account of the previous government ends on July 31. "We have informed all MLAs that the session will be convened at 11 a.m. Monday," said the Speaker, adding that the Speaker's office has worked through the weekend as it was conveyed to them that a session would be convened on Monday.
"Thus I was forced to decide on the matter of resignation and disqualification of remaining MLAs today itself. Monday we will be busy with the Assembly session," he added.
Breaking down as he paid tribute to former Union Minister S. Jaipal Reddy who passed away early Sunday morning, Mr. Kumar said that Reddy was his mentor and like an elder brother.
On the disqualifications
"The present political crisis has pushed me into a sea of depression. This will probably be the last stage of my four decades of public life. I have taken this decision with great respect and responsibility," he said. He quoted the decisions taken by Venkaiah Naidu in the disqualification petition of JDU leader, the AIADAMK case in Tamil Nadu and the Ravi Naik case as a guide for his current decision.
He said there are four disqualification petitions on 13 rebel MLAs and Shrimanth Patil who abstained from voting. The Speaker's office had issued an emergency notice of three days to all the respondents. The MLAs, through their advocates, sought four weeks time which this office has rejected.
On Shrimanth Patil's petition on July 20, the Speaker said that a notice was issued to him, but he is yet to reply.
"Pratapgouda Patil, B.C. Patil, Shivaram Hebbar, S.T. Somashekhar, B.A. Basavaraj, Anand Singh, Roshan Baig, Munirathna, Dr. K. Sudhakar, MTB Nagaraj have incurred disqualification under para 2 of Tenth Schedule. Thus all the above cease to be members of the Assembly till the term of the incumbent Assembly of Karnataka," he said.
A.H. Vishwanath, K.C. Narayana Gowda and K. Gopalaiah have incurred disqualification till the end of the term of the incumbent Assembly, he added. Shrimanth Patil too has incurred disqualification under the Tenth Schedule.
When quizzed on the issue of the resignations of the MLAs, the Speaker said that he called them to give them a chance to convince him that their resignations were genuine and voluntary. But they did not appear before me, he said. "In that scenario I have taken my decision," he added.
On the issue of Shrimanth Patil writing a letter to him that he was ill, Mr. Kumar said he had got any reliable records of his hospitalisation.
The Speaker said that his decisions on the disqualifications are open to judicial review. "I am a semi-literate man who has taken a decision on what I have learnt and digested. It is for the eminent people in the higher courts to decide further," he said.
He added that the BSP had moved a disqualification petition against its lone MLA N. Mahesh on Saturday night. "Am yet to look into the petition," he said.
When asked whether he would resign, the Speaker said he would take a call on the issue on Monday in the Assembly session.
'Will fight the order in SC'
One of the rebel MLAs A.H. Vishwanath, who was disqualified today said that all the disqualified MLAs will fight the speakers disqualification order in the Supreme Court. He was speaking to news channels minutes after the Speaker giving his ruling.
"The Speaker is a quasi-judicial officer and has given this ruling. But he is also an MLA first. He seems to have sided with political parties. He seems to have not been sensitive to our issues as MLAs. Was the government of the day pro-people and what were the political developments that forced us to take this stand? While reading out the order, he did not dwell upon our resignations at all. He has also come to a decision in a terrible hurry when we sought four weeks time to appear before him," he said.
Senior BJP leader Govind Karjol, reacting to the Speaker's order disqualifying rebel MLAs, said the order was "bad in law". The Speaker seems to have come under pressure from the political parties and not considered their resignations, he added.
"No court in this country will accept this order. Any MLA has a right to submit his resignation, which cannot be denied to him. This is an order with malafide intention. It is not in line with principles of natural justice and illegal. They will challenge it in the court," he said.
Senior BJP MLA A.S. Nadahalli said the Constitution says the Speaker must only verify whether the resignation of MLAs are genuine and voluntary. "The rebel MLAs have submitted a sworn affidavit on their resignation to the Supreme Court. What else does the Speaker need to prove its genuine and voluntary? His disqualification order is illegal and it won't stand in the Supreme Court even for an hour," he said.
True victory of democracy: Siddaramaiah
Meanwhile, CLP leader Siddaramaiah took to Twitter to hail the Speaker's order as a "true victory of democracy".
"I believe this will put an end to a bad culture of legislators selling themselves to attain their selfish ends subverting the mandate of the people," he wrote.