New Delhi: The Election Commission here on Thursday informed the Supreme Court that it would postpone the 15 Karnataka Assembly by-elections, caused by disqualification of rebel legislators by the then Speaker.
Senior advocate Rakesh Dwivedi, representing the Election Commission, assured the Bench headed by Justice N.V. Ramana the panel would postpone the elections. After that the top court deferred the matter for October 22 and asked all the parties to file responses.
The poll panel said the Representation of the People Act mandated the EC to fill the casual vacancies of legislatures through by-elections within six months from the date of occurrence of the vacancy.
The EC could defer the vote as vacancies were notified on July 25 and the poll panel still had time to fill them, Dwivedi said.
However, the EC didn’t comment on the Speaker’s decision to disqualify the rebel MLAs.
The poll panel’s statement came after the top court said it would hear the matter completely and decide on the plea of 17 Karnataka MLAs challenging disqualification. Dwivedi assured the court he would ask the EC to defer the vote for sometime.
However, on September 23 the poll panel has made a contrary statement and told the court elections could not be stayed in the Karnataka MLA disqualification row.
The court was hearing the disqualified MLAs’ pleas seeking to contest by-elections, scheduled for October 21. Advocates representing disqualified MLAs, Congress leader Siddaramaiah and others didn’t object to the poll panel’s decision.
Opposing the plea of rebel MLAs, Kapil Sibal, who was representing Karnataka Congress leaders, said merely on the ground of filing resignation didn’t mean that the Speaker had to accept without holding any inquiry.
Raising doubts over the conduct of disqualified MLAs, Sibal told the court they had taken a collective decision to resign and, thereafter, went to Mumbai in a plane owned by a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) member of Parliament. They stayed in a hotel under protection provided by the Maharashtra government. Despite claiming to be members of the Congress, they leader didn’t attend the legislative party meeting on July 10.
Instead, these disqualified MLAs conspired with the BJP and tried to topple then Congres-JD (S) alliance government, he said and added, their behaviour would have serious consequences on polity of the country.
The Speaker should not be involved in political thicket, he said and added, it was against the constitutional mandate, Sibal said. Justifying the Speaker’s action, Sibal also pointed out their absence from the Assembly when the session was on.
He also said the conduct of addressing media in group and appearing in group before authority, showed their resignation was neither voluntary nor genuine.
He also said these legislators didn’t deny the facts observed by the Speaker in the orders for disqualification. Sibal also criticised the MLAs for levelling false allegations that the Speaker used back-door to leave the office when they had gone to tender their resignation.