New Delhi: The Election Commission (EC) on Thursday informed the Supreme Court it will defer the bypolls in 15 assembly seats in Karnataka as the hearing of the petitions challenging the disqualification of the rebel lawmakers remains pending in court. The bypolls were scheduled for October 21, with the results to be declared three days later.
The EC's statement came after a three-judge bench headed by Justice NV Ramana said it would decide on the batch of petitions filed by 17 disqualified MLAs of Karnataka challenging the order of former Speaker KR Ramesh Kumar disqualifying them from the House.
After the bench, also comprising Justices Sanjiv Khanna and Krishna Murari, said it would hear the matter completely and decide it, senior advocate Rakesh Dwivedi, appearing for the poll panel, said, "Then I will ask the Election Commission to defer it (by-polls for 15 Assembly seats in Karnataka) for sometime."
When the bench asked Dwivedi as to whether his statement should be recorded in the order, the senior lawyer said, "We will do it."
The lawyers appearing for the disqualified MLAs, Congress leader Siddaramaiah, and other respondents said that they have no objection if the by-polls are deferred.
The top court said it would continue with the hearing in the case on October 22.
The 15 seats were vacated after the disqualification of the rebel Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) MLAs following their resignation from their respective parties. The then Assembly Speaker KR Ramesh Kumar had disqualified the 17 MLAs — 13 belonging to the Congress, three from the JDS, and one Independent, which eventually led to the fall of the Congress-JD(S) coalition government headed by the then chief minister HD Kumaraswamy in July.
Kumaraswamy resigned as chief minister after losing the trust vote, paving the way for the installation of the BJP government with BS Yediyurappa taking over.
The disqualified lawmakers have approached the apex court, challenging Kumar's decision to disqualify them. In their pleas, they have contended that the decision taken by Kumar before resigning as Speaker was an entirely illegal, arbitrary and mala fide exercise of his power under the 10th Schedule of the Constitution.
The lawmakers have also questioned Kumar's decision to reject their resignations by holding that those were not voluntary and genuine.
During the hearing in the Supreme Court on Wednesday, the Karnataka Assembly Speaker's office told court that the right to resignation by a lawmaker is a "democratic right" and it is high time the judiciary lay down guidelines for speakers. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the office of the Speaker, had told a three-judge bench headed by Justice NV Ramana that an MLA can be disqualified for giving up membership of a political party but he or she cannot be disqualified for giving up membership of the House.
The EC on September 23 had told the top court that the former speaker's order disqualifying these 17 MLAs cannot deprive them of their right to contest by-polls.