New Delhi, May 13: In a big jolt to the ruling BJP in Karnataka, the Supreme Court today quashed the disqualification of 16 MLAs ahead of the controversial October 2010 no trust motion, saying the Speaker acted in “hot haste” to favour Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa.
A bench of justices Altamas Kabir and Cyriac Joseph in a 127 page judgement said the Speaker acted with undue haste to meet the deadline fixed by the Governor and in the process ignored the Constitutional values and principles of natural justice by disqualifying the MLAs.
The apex also said the fact that five independent MLAs had joined the BJP Government did not mean that they have joined the party to warrant disqualification under the anti-defection law.
The 16 MLAs, 11 belonging to the BJP and the rest Independents were disqualified by the Speaker on October 10, ahead of the October 12 deadline fixed by the Governor to Yeddyurappa to prove his majority after the legislators wrote a letter withdrawing their support to the Chief Minister.
“Unless it was to ensure that the trust vote did not go against the Chief Minister, there was no conceivable reason for the Speaker to have taken up the Disqualification Application in such a great hurry,” Justice Kabir writing the judgement said.
The apex court accepted contention of the aggrieved BJP MLAs led by -Balchandra L Jarkiholi and Independent MLA like D Sudhakar that the speaker did not serve them with copies of the disqualification petition moved by the Chief Minister and had merely pasted the notices at their closed MLA quarter violating Rules 6 and 7 of the anti-defection law.
The aggrieved MLAs had approached the apex court after the Karnataka High Court had upheld the disqualification.
“There was no compulsion on the Speaker to decide the Disqualification Application filed by Shri Yeddyurappa in such a great hurry within the time specified by the Governor to the Speaker to conduct a Vote of Confidence in the Government headed by Shri Yeddyurappa.
“It would appear that such a course of action was adopted by the Speaker on 10th October, 2010, since the Vote of Confidence on the Floor of the House was slated for 12th October, 2010. The element of hot haste is also evident in the action of the Speaker in this regard as well,” the apex court said.
Referring to the Indepedent MLAs plea, the apex court said, “The mere extension of support to Yeddyurappa and the decision to join his cabinet, in our view was not sufficient to indicate that the appellants had decided to join and/or had actually joined the Bharatiya Janata Party, particularly on account of the subsequent conduct in which they were treated differently from the Members of the BJP.
The aggrieved MLAs contended that Rule 7 of the anti-defection law mandated that they should be given 7 days' time to reply to the notice, but the Speaker chose to disqualify them within three days to meet the deadline fixed by the Governor for the voting.
They further contended that two other BJP MLAs M P Renukacharya and Narasimha Nayak, who had also withdrawn the support, were spared of the disqualification after they retracted.
The apex court said except for the affidavit filed by K S. Eswarappa, State BJP president and statements of the two MLAs (retracted) there was nothing on record in support of the allegations that the aggrieved MLAs had violated the anti-defection law.
“The Speaker apparently did not take into consideration the rule of evidence that a person making an allegation has to prove the same with supporting evidence and the mere fact that the allegation was not denied, did not amount to the same having been proved on account of the silence of the person against whom such allegations are made.
“In our view, not only did the Speaker's action amount to denial of the principles of natural justice to the Appellants, but it also reveals a partisan trait in the Speaker's approach in disposing of the Disqualification Application filed by Shri B.S Yeddyurappa,” the apex court said.
The bench said if the Speaker wished to rely on the statements of a third party which were adverse to the MLAs ' interests, it was obligatory on his part to have given them a hearing.
“This conduct on the part of the Speaker is also indicative of the ‘hot haste' with which the Speaker disposed of the Disqualification Petition as complained of by the Appellants, the bench said.
The apex court said rules are taken as directory and not mandatory, yet the MLAs were were still required to be given a proper opportunity of meeting the allegations mentioned in the show-cause notices served on them.
“The fact that the Appellants had not been served with notices directly, but that the same were pasted on the outer doors of their quarters in the MLA complex and that too without copies of the various documents relied upon by Yeddyurappa, giving them three days' time to reply to the said notices justifies the Appellants' contention that they had not been given sufficient time to give an effective reply to the Show-Cause notices,” the bench said. PTI