Won't stay Yeddyurappa's swearing-in, says Supreme Court

Court gives 48 hours to Attorney General to produce before it Yeddyurappa's letters to Governor staking his claim to form a government.

Updated - December 04, 2021 11:56 pm IST

Published - May 17, 2018 09:20 am IST - NEW DELHI

Former Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, who represents some Karnataka BJP MLAs, arrives at the Supreme Court for a late night hearing of Congress and JD(S) petition challenging the State Governor's decision inviting the BJP to form a government, past midnight of May 16, 2018.

Former Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, who represents some Karnataka BJP MLAs, arrives at the Supreme Court for a late night hearing of Congress and JD(S) petition challenging the State Governor's decision inviting the BJP to form a government, past midnight of May 16, 2018.

Amidst the ringing of wake-up alarms from mobile phones on Thursday morning, the Supreme Court wrapped up an all-night hearing by refusing to stay or postpone the swearing-in of BJP leader B.S. Yeddyurappa as Chief Minister of Karnataka at 9.00 a.m.

But the court gave Attorney General K.K. Venugopal 48 hours to collect the letters written by Mr. Yeddyurappa to Governor Vajubhai Vala staking his claim to form a government and produce them before the court at 10.30 a.m. on May 18. The future of Mr. Yeddyurappa as Chief Minister depends on what the court finds in the letters.

A Bench of Justices A.K. Sikri, S.A. Bobde and Ashok Bhushan would examine the contents of the letters to find out, among other things, why Governor Vala “generously” gave Mr. Yeddyuruppa 15 days to prove his majority. The Congress-JD(S) combine alleged that Mr. Yeddyurappa had only asked for seven days’ time to prove his majority.


The court would also examine the letters to find an answer to the Congress’s claim that it was “mathematically” impossible for Mr. Yeddyruppa to raise his seats from the declared 104 to cross the 111 mark, especially when the Congress-JD(S) already has 117 seats in the 222–seat house.

“Tell us, how can you claim to have 111 seats when the other side has signed certificates showing it has 117 members? How do you claim majority?”Justice Sikri asked the BJP side.

“First let us see the letters. We cannot stop the swearing-in merely on the basis of speculations,” Justice Bobde said.

The court asked the State of Karnataka, the Centre and Mr. Yeddyurappa to respond to the petition even as it did not respond favourably to the Congress’s request to hold the floor test in the next 48 hours and not waste another 15 days.

Court doors open in the early hours of Thursday

The battle between the Congress –JD(S) and the BJP over the formation of government in Karnataka entered the Supreme Court in the early hours of Thursday. The drama started after the Congress approached the court in a midnight petition to stave off Mr. Yeddyurappa’s swearing-in. They challenged the decision of the Governor on May 16 to invite Mr. Yeddyurappa to form a government as the largest single party while ignoring the fact that the Congress-JD(S) combine was numerically stronger.

Lights blazed in the Krishna Menon Marg residence of Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra as Supreme Court officials were seen rushing to and fro. Finally, at 1.15 a.m., the Chief Justice decided that the Congress petition was urgent enough to deserve a midnight hearing.

Within half an hour, the Supreme Court became a buzz of activity as media and lawyers arrived.

At 2 a.m., after the judges were seated, senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, who represented some BJP MLAs, said the petition filed by JD(S) leader H.D. Kumaraswamy and Karnataka Congress chief G. Parameshwara should be “thrown out”. Mr. Rohatgi argued that the petition wanted the court to prohibit a Governor from doing his constitutional duties, which included inviting a person to form a stable government and swearing him into office. Interestingly, Mr. Yeddyurappa, though a party in the case, was not represented in court.

“Heavens will not fall if this petition is not heard tonight. The petition is completely misconceived and is an attempt to stultify the democratic process by asking the court to interdict the Governor, a high constitutional authority, from performing his constitutional obligations… Besides, the question why the Governor gave 15 days’ time for a floor test could have been discussed in the next day or two… what was the rush that it should be heard tonight itself?” Mr. Rohatgi asked.

Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, lead counsel for the petitioners, said the BJP had used the Governor to put the apex court in a quandary. “If I approach the Supreme Court before the swearing-in, I am accused of injuncting the Governor. If I approach the court after the swearing-in, it would be a situation fait accompli for me,” he argued.

Singhvi quotes Sarkaria Commission report

Urging the court to stay the swearing-in ceremony, Mr. Singhvi quoted the Sarkaria Commission Report of the 1988 to show that the largest single party can stake a claim to form a government only with the support of others, including “independents”. The BJP has no support from other parties. This would naturally lead to the Governor to invite the Congress-JD(S) alliance to form a government.

Mr. Singhvi recounted cases like in Goa when the Governor invited the post-poll alliance led by the BJP to form a government and ignored the Congress, which was the largest single party. He argued that the court should judicially review the decision of the Governor to invite the BJP to form the government in Karnataka.

Mr. Venugopal said the petition was in the “realm of suspicion” and it was not known what Mr. Yeddyurappa wrote to the Governor. “That is an area of darkness,” the Attorney General said.

Justice Sikri said it was time to dispel the darkness by examining the letters.

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