Congress approaches Supreme Court after BJP gets invite to form Karnataka government

The Congress is seeking a hearing in the Supreme Court on its petition against Karnataka governor Vajubhai Vala’s decision to invite BJP to form the government
JD(S) workers celebrate after Congress offered the chief minister’s post to its president Kumaraswamy.(PTI)
JD(S) workers celebrate after Congress offered the chief minister’s post to its president Kumaraswamy.(PTI)
Updated on May 16, 2018 11:51 PM IST
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Hindustan Times, New Delhi | By Saubhadra Chatterji and Zia Haq

Terming governor Vajubhai Vala’s decision to invite the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to form the government as “immoral, illegal and unconstitutional”, the Congress moved the Supreme Court late on Wednesday night to challenge his decision and cited both constitutional and judicial precedents.The BJP, however, defended the governor’s decision, citing another set of constitutional conventions and court judgments.

Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi confirmed that he had filed a petition and asked for an urgent hearing at night, before the scheduled swearing-in of BS Yeddyurappa at 9am, Thursday.

The SC registrar, however, did not confirm receiving the petition till the time of going to print. The Chief Justice can constitute an urgent bench to hear such petitions if he deems fit. “The Karnataka governor knows now the size of the declared and asserted coalition of Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) who has written to him. The single-largest party logic doesn’t apply in this fractured mandate,” Singhvi said. He added the petition mentions the Goa assembly judgment as the basis to challenge Vala’s move. After the Goa polls, the BJP formed a post-poll coalition and staked claim to power. Governor Mridula Sinha allowed it to form the government, ignoring Congress’s claim that the largest party should be given precedence. A SC bench comprising then Chief Justice JS Khehar and Justices RK Agrawal and Ranjan Gogoi also rejected the Congress argument. “When no political party is in majority, then it is the bounden duty of the Governor to see who can form the government. If nothing happens, then the Governor is duty-bound to call the leader of the single largest party, but if someone goes to the Governor with a list of supporters, then it is a different issue altogether,” the bench said.

“The SC judgment delivered its verdict on the Goa case on March 14, 2017. That’s the norm now. That law binds us, the governor and B S Yeddyurappa,” said senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal in an earlier press conference, which was also addressed by former finance minister P Chidambaram. “The SC created judicial precedence, Governor creating political precedence. In Goa, Manipur and Meghalaya, we were the largest party but governor called the alliance to form the government. When majority is there before Karnataka governor, still we are not invited. There is an opportunity for horse trading,” he said. Singhvi also pointed out the Goa judgment had asked an immediate floor test, and inst-ructed the BJP’s CM Manohar Parikkar to prove he enjoyed the confidence of the house in two days. But launching a scathing attack on the Congress, senior BJP leader and Union law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has said that the Karnataka Governor’s decision was constitutionally sound and unassailable.

Quoting para 396 of the SR Bommai verdict, the BJP leader said the judgment dealt with a situation where an elected government had lost its majority. “It is not relevant to a situation arising after a general election where a governor has to invite a house,” he said. He said the founders of the Constitution allowed for discretion on the part of the Governor and recognised his right to apply his conscience.

Quoting the Sarkaria Commission and the MM Punchi Commission, Prasad described the order of preference in which the Governor had to act in choosing who to invite. The Governor, according to Sarkaria Commission recommendations, had to first look for a party or an alliance of parties formed prior to election. Then he ought to consider the single-largest party. After exhausting these options, he could then turn to post-poll alliances. This position was reiterated in the 2016 Nabam Rebia judgement of the Supreme Court.

He said Rahul Gandhi should recall and follow standards set by his father Rajiv Gandhi in 1989, when he refused to form the government despite being the single largest party because he did not have the mandate.

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