Bangalore, Feb 14: In a relief to the ruling BJP, the Karnataka High Court today upheld Speaker K G Bopaiah's order disqualifying five independent MLAs, who had withdrawn support to the government, from the assembly membership on the eve of October 11 trust vote which it won.
"... We are of the view that the impugned order passed by the Speaker is not in violation of constitutional mandate nor is there any infirmity based on malafides or perversity," a full bench of the court said in a 190-page verdict, dismissing their petitions challenging the disqualification.
Gulihatti D Shekar, Venkataramanappa, P M Narendraswamy, D Sudhakar and Shivaraj Thangadagi – all elected as Independents -- were disqualified by the Speaker on October ten, a day before the B S Yeddyurappa government took a vote of confidence on the floor of the Assembly which it won by voice-vote amid pandemonium.
The BJP government later accepted an offer made by the governor to seek the trust vote again, if it wished, on October 14 and won it 106 votes in favour and 100 against.
On October six, these five MLAs along with 11 rebel BJP MLAs had submitted a letter to Bhardwaj withdrawing support to Yeddyurappa.
Bopaiah had passed the concurrent order on separate petitions filed by BJP MLAs C T Ravi and D N Jeevaraj, who is also Chief Whip of the BJP legislature party, and a voter each from their five Assembly segments they represented seeking disqualification on grounds of defection.
The disqualified MLAs filed the petitions in the high court praying for quashing of the Speaker's order as illegal, void and not enforceable.
During the hearing, the disqualified MLAs through their counsel argued that they never joined the BJP, while the rival petitioners submitted that by their conduct they had lost independent character and indeed had joined the party.
While pronouncing the orders, the bench, comprising Justices Mohan Shantanagoudar, S Abdul Nazeer and A S Bopanna, held that the complaints filed by the five voters from their constituencies seeking disqualification are maintainable, rejecting the contention of the petitioners that they have no locus standi.
The bench observed that it is not in dispute that the petitioners have acted in accordance with the directions issued by the Chief Whip.
"If really the petitioners were not the members of the legislature party of BJP, they would not have received the 'whip' sent by the Chief Whip of that party," the order noted.
"There is no reason as to why the petitioners should receive such a direction issued by the Chief Whip of BJP if they had retained their independent character and identity, more particularly, when they were described as the members of ruling party," the bench observed.
"All these writ petitions being devoid of any merit, stand dismissed," the unanimous order said.
"We see no merit in the contentions raised on behalf of the petitioners."
The disqualified MLAs said they would file appeal in the Supreme Court, challenging the high court order. They maintained that "injustice" has been meted out to them, adding, they had withdrawn support to only Yeddyurappa and not the government and that being independents, they don't attract provisions of anti-defection law. PTI