Supreme Court sets Stage for the Final Act in Karnataka
The Supreme Court on Friday asked B S Yeddyurappa, invited by the Karnataka governor to form government despite his party having only 104 MLAs in a 221-member House as against the post-poll Congress-JD(S) alliance’s 116, to face a floor test in the assembly at 4 pm on Saturday.
The court was about to restrain Yeddyurappa from taking any major policy decision, including nominating a member of the Anglo-Indian community as MLA, when the CM through senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi gave an undertaking to that effect and avoided a court directive. The state, through ASG Tushar Mehta, said “there was no move to nominate any such member till the floor test is over”.
Early into the 60-minute hearing, a bench of Justices A K Sikri, S A Bobde and Ashok Bhushan abandoned its interim decision on Thursday to scrutinise Yeddyurappa’s letters to the governor to ascertain whether it had cited the magic number. The two letters to the governor, handed over to the court by Rohatgi, turned out to be damp squibs, as one related to intimation about Yeddyurappa’s election as BJP legislature party leader and the other claimed that he had the support of majority MLAs with an assurance that he would prove it in a floor test.
The court stared at the prospect of spending hours listening to long cross-arguments from rival sides on the governor’s discretionary power to extend invitation for government formation – whether to the single largest party or the post-poll coalition claiming majority? In fact, arguments on this line was started by senior advocate A M Singhvi when Rohatgi said, “The real test is on the floor of the House, not in the SC.”
Although the court will decide on the legality of Governor Vajubhai Vala’s decision to invite BSY on the sole ground of him being the leader of single largest party, the verdict will be of academic significance. Like in previous cases, a government once made on the basis of majority support, cannot be unscrambled.
Singhvi, appearing for Karnataka Congress chief G Parameswara, readily agreed for a floor test on Saturday. Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for JD(S) chief H D Kumaraswamy, questioned the governor’s “unconstitutional” decision but finally agreed for the floor test.
Once there was consensus on floor test, the bench started dictating the order and said, “Since it (hearing of the issue) may consume substantial time and the final decision (by the SC) cannot be given immediately, we deem it proper that floor test to ascertain the majority of one or the other group is conducted immediately without any delay.”
With allegations flying thick and fast about BJP attempting to steal Congress and JD(S) MLAs, the bench curtailed the 15-day time given by the governor by asking BSY to prove his majority within 28 hours.
This drew repeated requests from BSY’s counsel for “little more time” to enable “bringing flocks together” to face the floor test but failed to convince the bench.