Karnataka Assembly speaker K R Ramesh Kumar on Thursday disqualified three rebel Congress MLAs under the anti-defection law, in a move that heightened the suspense over government formation excercise in the state two days after the collapse of the Congress-JDS ministry.
With all attention riveted on the Speaker's action, Kumar held that the resignation by the three MLAs were "not voluntary and genuiune" and therefore proceeded to disqualify them under the anti-defection law with immediate effect till the end of the term of the current House in 2023.
The Speaker said he would decide on both resignations and disqualification pleas pending before him in respect of 14 other MLAs "in the next couple of days", which may prolong the political turmoil and have a bearing on government formation.
The 14-month-old Congress-JDS coalition government headed by H D Kumaraswamy collapsed on Tuesday after losing the vote of confidence in the assembly in a climax to the three-week long intense power struggle triggered by the raft of resignations by the rebel MLAs.
Kumar's pronouncement of the ruling on disqualification pleas by the Congress and JDS and resignations by the MLAs in a phased manner is seen as a tough message to other rebels, who are still camping in Mumbai insisting they would not step back from their decision to quit their assembly membership.
Congress rebel MLAs Ramesh Jarkiholi, Mahesh Kumatalli and Shankar faced the tough action from the Speaker, who made it clear that a member disqualified under the anti-defection law cannot contest or get elected till the end of the term of the present House.
"They have violated the provisions of the 10th Schedule of the Constitution (anti-defection law) and therefore are disqualified," he told reporters here.
They cease to be members from "this day" till the expiry of the current assembly in 2023, the Speaker added. Since Shankar, who was earlier recognised as an Independent in the assembly, had 'merged' his party KPJP with Congress, he also faced the action as its member based on the petition by the Congress seeking his disqualification, Kumar explained.
He said resignation was a "respectable terminology", while disqualification was "admonishing," while emphasising that the anti-defection law could not be used as a "monstrous law."
"No by-election...nothing will work...this is a quasi judicial body (speaker's office)," Kumar said, adding, "I know these matters will go to the court."
On the remaining 14 cases, he said he is "holding them back" and it would require a "couple of days" for him to give his verdict.
Kumar said he first decided on the resignation, rejecting them as they were not voluntary and genuine "based on circumstances" and thereafter dealt with disqualification after considering "evidences and other orders." Asked if the same yardstick would be used against other rebel MLAs, he said, "wait and see."
"It is a hypothetical question," Kumar said, when asked whether the remaining MLAs could still come around and withdraw their resignation. He said "It is the responsibility of all political parties that such impasse doesn't continue and Constitutional crisis is not created and to see that the finance bill is passed."
The speaker had earlier said that if the Finance bill was not passed by July 31, the "government will come to a standstill and we will not be in a position to even paysalaries, such a necessity has come, what to do?" Asked if the Finance Bill can be passed by a presidential order if government is not formed by July 31, he said it cannot be done and either the suspension of the assembly or the invocation of President rule has to be done.
"I don't know what the calculations or the thought process of the Government of India is," he added.
Asked if the non-passage of the finance bill would lead to "financial anarchy", he said, "we are nearing a crisis."
With their resignations still pending, the 15 rebel MLAs of the Congress and the JD(S) had on Wednesday sought four weeks' time to appear before the Speaker in connection with the plea for their disqualification from the state assembly.
A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi in its order on Wednesday last gave the Assembly Speaker the freedom to decide on the resignation of the 15 MLAs within such time-frame as considered appropriate by him.