Published On : Fri, May 18th, 2018

SC orders Karnataka floor test at 4 pm on Saturday

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday ordered that a floor test in the Karnataka Assembly takes place tomorrow (Saturday, May 19) for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to prove its majority. The bench, comprising Justices AK Sikri, SA Bobde and Ashok Bhushan observed that “practical solutions are sometimes better”. The court directed Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa to not take any important policy decision till the floor test takes place.

The court stayed Congress-JD(S)’s plea challenging Governor Vajubhai Vala’s decision to nominate an Anglo-Indian MLA to the Assembly before the floor test. The court added that the Pro Tem Speaker will decide which way the floor test takes place. The court added that it will decide whether the Governor’s discretion was right or wrong, at a later stage.

Lawyer for Congress-JD(S), Abhishek Manu Singhvi, submitted to the Supreme Court that the Congress-JD(S) were ready for a floor test tomorrow. He added that in such a case, proper security should be provided to the Congress and JDS MLAs and that there should be videography. The court observed that it can pass an order to make proper security arrangements but turned down the plea for videography. The Congress and the JDS, who had moved their MLAs out of Karnataka, will now have to bring them back before tomorrow.

On the other hand, the BJP was unwilling for a floor test on Saturday. BJP’s lawyer Mukul Rohatgi said that the floor test should not happen on Saturday but there should be a reasonable time, not one day.

The hearing began on Friday with Rohatgi submitting the letters of support for the BJP to the court. However, the letters reportedly did not carry the names of the MLAs whereas the letters submitted by the Congress and the JDS carried signatures of the MLAs. The Supreme Court also wanted to know on what basis the Governor asks a party to provide a stable government. BJP’s lawyer Mukul Rohatgi submitted that at this stage he does not want to say anything more.

Rohatgi also told court, “We have certain information that many MLAs from other parties have not given any kind of written support to Congress-JD(S).” The court observed that as BS Yeddyurappa has claimed support and BJP is single largest party, there could be two probabilities – whether Governor’s decision has to be tested or a floor test has to be held on Saturday.

The Congress and the Janata Dal-Secular (JDS) had approached the Supreme Court on Wednesday night against the decision of Karnataka Governor Vajubhai Vala to invite the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to form the government and prove majority within 15 days, being the single largest party. The bench heard the petition past midnight and refused to stay the swearing-in ceremony of BS Yeddyurappa.

The court said that Yeddyurappa must produce letters of support in the court on Friday. During the hearing that commenced at 2.20 a.m. and concluded at 5.30 on Thursday morning, senior counsel Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for the Congress, argued that the Governor must have invited the post-poll coalition to form government as no single party secured majority. He questioned the 15-day time given to Yeddyurappa for proving majority, saying the Supreme Court had earlier said that “to give such time is to encourage the constitutional sin of poaching”.

In his argument that ran for more than an hour, Singhvi also cited instances of Meghalaya, Manipur, Goa, Delhi, Jharkhand and Jammu and Kashmir as precedents of post-poll alliances being invited to form governments.

Attorney General KK Venugopal, appearing for the Centre, said everything was in the realm of “speculation” as the entire matter was still “a grey area”. Former Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, who appeared for the BJP, questioned the urgency of the matter to hear it at midnight as if “heavens will fall if a person is sworn in the morning”.

Justice Sikri asked him on what basis was his side claiming majority in the House, adjourning the hearing till Friday morning.

BS Yeddyurappa was sworn in as the Chief Minister of Karnataka on Thursday. After taking over as CM, Yeddyurappa said that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) will not need 15 days to prove majority. He also claimed that the Congress MLAs, who had been holed up inside a resort and are now being taken to Kerala, will vote for them (the BJP). “We are in power and we will prove our majority,” he said. Reiterating the confidence of winning majority on the floor of the House, he said, “I do not think we need 15 days to prove majority, despite the governor giving us time. I am confident that those Congress MLAs lodged in a private resort, who have undergone mental torture and harassment, will vote with the government.”

On May 15, the BJP won 104 seats out of 222 Assembly seats that went to polls in Karnataka. The Congress won 78 seats while the JDS won 38. In a turn of events, the JDS and Congress came together to form a coalition government. They also got the support of one Independent MLA, taking their collective number to 117, well past the half-way mark.