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Karnataka tussle: Supreme Court refuses to stay Yeddyurappa’s swearing-in

In a rare pre-dawn hearing on an appeal by the Congress-JD(S) combine, the Supreme Court on Thursday refused to stay BJP leader BS Yeddyurappa’s swearing-in as Karnataka chief minister.

Karnataka Elections 2018 Updated: May 17, 2018 09:40 IST
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Karnataka Government Formation,Congress,JDS
The Supreme Court issued notices to the Karnataka government and Yeddyurappa seeking their replies on the plea filed by the Congress-JD(S) combine and posted the matter for hearing on Friday.(Arijit Sen/HT Photo)

Last-ditch attempts by the Congress-JD(S) combine to stall BJP leader BS Yeddyurappa’s swearing-in as Karnataka chief minister fell flat as the Supreme Court in a rare pre-dawn hearing on Thursday refused to stay the same. The Congress-JD(S) combine had made an urgent plea before the apex court to stay Yeddyurappa’s swearing-in on Thursday.

A special bench comprising Justices AK Sikri, SA Bobde and Ashok Bhushan directed the Centre to place before it two communications, sent by Yeddyurappa to governor Vajubhai Vala in which he had staked claim to form the government. The Supreme Court commenced hearing at 2.11 am and ended at 5.28 am.

It, however, made it clear that the swearing-in and government formation in the state would be subject to the final outcome of the case before it. The top court also issued notices to the Karnataka government and Yeddyurappa seeking their replies on the plea filed by the Congress-JD(S) combine and posted the matter for hearing on Friday.

“This court is not passing any order staying the oath taking ceremony of BS Yeddyurappa. In case, he is given an oath in the meantime, that shall be subject to further orders of this court and the final outcome of the writ petition,” the bench said.

While senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for the Congress-JD(S) combine, persisted with his arguments that the swearing-in ceremony should be stayed or deferred, the bench said, “We are not staying the oath taking ceremony”.

Attorney general KK Venugopal, appearing for the Centre, and senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, representing three BJP MLAs, Govind M Karjol, CM Udasi and Basavaraj Bommai, opposed the arguments to defer or stay the swearing-in ceremony, which was scheduled on Wednesday for Thursday morning.

“We do not know what transpired in the meeting between the BJP leader (Yeddyurappa) and the governor. I do not think BS Yeddyurappa is served or represented here. The whole thing is in a grey area and in a realm of speculation,” Venugopal said.

Rohatgi also questioned the manner in which the petition was filed at midnight and said, “Heavens will not fall if somebody is sworn in. This is not a matter of life or death or as if someone is going to be hanged.”

He said that the constitutional obligation of the governor is to invite a party to form a new government and his action could always be judicially reviewed and the court may order for restoration of status-quo ante also as was done in the case of Arunachal Pradesh.

“Courts should not stop a constitutional functionary (governor) from discharging his constitutional duty. In this country, action will be amenable but office of the governor cannot be injuncted,” Rohatgi said.

At the outset, Singhvi referred to the number of seats won by the BJP, Congress and JD(S), and said the Congress-JD(S) combine has the majority in the house with 117 MLAs while the BJP had only 104 seats which was below the majority mark of 112 at present.

He also questioned the governor’s decision to give 15 days time to Yeddyurppa to prove majority in the house and claimed that this might lead to “horse trading” and “poaching” of MLAs.

Singhvi said they were not sure how much time Yeddyurappa himself had sought from the governor to prove the majority but as per their information, the BJP leader had sought seven days time.

He urged the court to defer the swearing-in, scheduled to be held at 9.30 am on Thursday, till 4.30 pm and said the Centre or BJP should be asked to place before the bench the letters sent by Yeddyurppa to the governor.

However, the attorney general told the bench, “We really do not know what was the basis on which the governor invited him (Yeddyurppa).”

He said that swearing-in should not be deferred or stayed as it was for a constitutional office and no purpose would be served by stopping it since it was “purely a reversable situation”.

“Let this matter be heard. Let the floor test take place. No irreversible damage will be done,” Venugopal said.

“Here, there are three major parties. BJP is the single largest party, Congress is second and JD(S) is third. Now, the Congress-JD (S) combine outweighs the BJP. Then, in this situation, on what basis he (Yeddyurppa) has staked claim to form the government? We do not have those letters. It’s only on surmises. The arithmetic is such that defies on what basis it was done,” the bench observed.

To this, Venugopal raised a doubt on the authenticity of the signatures of MLAs submitted by the Congress-JD(S) combine leader HD Kumaraswamy and said, “They may have given a signed letter which may not be genuine.”

Singhvi, while contending that “humongous things are happening in terms of money”, expressed gratitude that three judges of the apex court were hearing the matter at 2 am.

“If a governor passes an order (inviting Yeddyurappa to form government) at 9.30 pm and the oath taking ceremony is at 9.30 am, I have no option but to make your night black. I am extremely grateful that three judges of the Supreme Court are sitting in the court at 2 am to hear the matter. It is a victory of democracy irrespective of what is the outcome. The democracy has won,” he told the bench.

In the May 12 polls, BJP emerged as the single largest party with 104 members, while Congress secured 78, the JD(S) 37 and others three.

(With PTI inputs)

First Published: May 17, 2018 08:40 IST