The 10 rebel Congress-Janata Dal Secular lawmakers who weren’t getting an early appointment with Karnataka Assembly speaker KR Ramesh Kumar should meet him at 6 pm in his office, the Supreme Court ordered on Thursday.
A bench led by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi also ordered that the speaker would have to call on the resignations by the end of day and place his decision on the letters before the bench tomorrow morning.
The top court’s order implies that the Karnataka political crisis, which had been kept in a limbo by the speaker, is in homestretch.
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The bench, responding to concerns about the security of the lawmakers who are sequestered in a Mumbai hotel, said the legislators could request protection from the Karnataka police chief.
The top court said the rebel MLAs, if they want, could intimate their decision to resign to speaker Ramesh Kumar.
The assembly speaker would have to take a call on the resignation letters during the day. “The order of the speaker will be placed before us tomorrow,” Chief Justice Gogoi said on a petition by 10 Congress-Janata Dal Secular lawmakers who complained that the speaker had been sitting on their resignations to help the HD Kumaraswamy government survive.
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A Congress plan to reach out to its rebels in Mumbai had come crashing down on Wednesday when its lead trouble-shooter DK Shivakumar could not get past a posse of policemen outside the hotel. Shivakumar tried to camp outside the hotel for several hours but was eventually bundled into a police van, and given a ride back to the airport to take a flight to Bengaluru.
Back home in Karnataka, the coalition government that had been hanging by a thread came one more step closer to a collapse when two more Congress lawmakers handed over their resignation letter to speaker KR Ramesh Kumar.
The current crisis began on Saturday when 12 legislators – nine from Congress and three from JD(S) — quit their positions. Anand Singh, a rebel Congress lawmaker had resigned earlier in the week. Despite frenetic efforts by the coalition, two independents withdrew support on Monday, and one more suspended Congress MLA resigned on Tuesday.
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In all, 16 legislators of the ruling Congress-JDS coalition have resigned from the assembly, lowering the strength of the 224-member assembly and the majority mark. Once all the resignation letters are accepted, the BJP, which has the backing of 105 lawmakers and two independents, says it will have a majority in the state assembly.
The speaker was accused of putting off this eventuality by going slow on accepting resignation letters. Kumar had rejected eight of 14 resignations, and said the remaining six lawmakers would have to meet him in person and convince him that their offers to demit office were voluntary. But he scheduled the meetings only for next week.
This decision was challenged in the top court on Wednesday with a petition by 10 rebel lawmakers on grounds that the speaker had adopted a delaying tactic to prolong the life of the “minority government” in the House. “The speaker’s tactic to delay their resignation was anti-democratic and a violation of the basic structure,” read the petition, which was heard by the top court on Thursday.
Jul 11, 2019 11:16 IST