New Delhi: The Supreme Court will deliver on Wednesday its crucial order on the pleas of 15 rebel Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) MLAs seeking a direction to the Karnataka Assembly Speaker to accept their resignations even as suspense mounted over the fate of the 14-month-old HD Kumaraswamy government in the state.
The court decision capped intense arguments on Tuesday during which Kumaraswamy said the rebel MLAs are "hunting in a pack", alleging their motive is to bring down his government, while the dissidents submitted that Speaker KR Ramesh Kumar wants to prop up a government which has lost majority.
Kumar argued that being a constitutional functionary, he cannot be directed to first decide on the resignations of the MLAs and then the pending disqualification applications.
The chief minister is due to face a trust vote on Thursday and his government could collapse ahead of it if Kumar were to accept the resignations of the rebel MLAs.
A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said it was not restraining the Speaker from deciding the disqualification but was only asking him to ascertain whether the rebel MLAs voluntarily resigned.
The bench, also comprising Justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose, said the apex court had given a "very high status" to the Speaker while interpreting the anti-defection law decades ago and "probably that needs a re-look after so many years".
The bench said there are rival submissions on the issue of resignation and disqualification of MLAs and "we will do the required balancing".
The ruling coalition's strength in the House is 117 -- Congress 78, JD(S) 37, BSP 1, and nominated 1, besides the Speaker.
With the support of the two independents who have withdrawn support, the opposition BJP has 107 MLAs in the 225-member House, including the nominated MLA and Speaker.
If the resignations of the 16 MLAs are accepted, the ruling coalition's tally will be reduced to 101. The nominated member too has a right to vote.
Kumar said he is working in accordance with the Constitution and was performing his duty.
"Ultimately, what the Supreme Court will come out with (its verdict), after going through that, I will respond," Kumar said. "I will only perform my duty…everyone will have to wait till tomorrow."
Senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan, appearing for Kumaraswamy, said these rebel MLAs are "hunting in a pack" and the Speaker cannot "turn a blind eye" to it since their motive is to bring down the government.
"This is not the Speaker versus the court. This is between the Chief Minister and somebody who wants to become the Chief Minister and bring down this government," he said, while urging the court to vacate its two interim orders asking the Speaker to decide the resignations and maintain a status quo respectively.
Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for rebel MLAs, said the Speaker is acting in a "partisan" and "malafide" manner by not accepting their resignations and he has "frustrated" the fundamental rights of these lawmakers to resign. He said as per constitutional rules, the Speaker has to take an "immediate" decision on resignations and by not doing this, he is "flouting the rules".
In a bid to keep their flock together ahead of the floor test, the Congress, BJP and JD(S) have shifted their MLAs to resorts.
The Congress Tuesday on shifted its MLAs from a hotel in the city to a resort on the outskirts, amid fears that some more legislators may resign.
(With inputs from PTI)