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SC orders floor test in Karnataka at 4 pm on Saturday

Source: PTI
Last updated on: May 18, 2018 13:53 IST
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The apex court made it clear that it would deal with the constitutionality of the Governor’s letter inviting Yeddyurappa to form the government later.

The Supreme Court on Friday ordered a floor test in the Karnataka assembly at 4 pm on Saturday, drastically slashing the 15-day window given by the Governor to Bharatiya Janata Party Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa to prove majority.

“Let the House decide and the best course would be floor test,” a three-judge bench headed by Justice A K Sikri said.


The bench, also comprising Justices S A Bobde and Ashok Bhushan, turned down Yeddyurappa’s request for a secret ballot during the floor test.

It directed the Karnataka government and the Governor not to nominate any MLA from the Anglo-Indian community to participate in the floor test on Saturday.

The bench asked the newly elected government not to take any major policy decision till it proves majority in the House.

The apex court made it clear that it would deal with the constitutionality of the Governor’s letter inviting Yeddyurappa to form the government later.

The top court said the Pro tem speaker will take decisions in accordance with the law on the issue of floor test and ordered the authorities, including the Director General of Police, to ensure law and order outside the Karnataka assembly.

The bench said ultimately the question is about majority which has to be proved in the floor test.

The BJP has emerged as the single largest party with 104 seats, followed by the Congress with 78, Janata Dal-Secular with 37 and three seats have gone to others in the 224-member assembly where elections were held for 222 seats.

The majority mark is 112 seats and the post-poll alliance strength of the Congress-JD-S combine, which claims to have 117 MLAs, has alleged foul play in the Governor inviting BJP to form the government.

However during the hearing, senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the BJP and Yeddyurappa, disputed the signatures of the MLAs in one of the letters given by Congress-JD-S combine leader H D Kumaraswamy to the Governor.

Rohatgi sought reasonable time till Monday for the floor test but the bench ordered for Saturday.

Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for the combine, said the question is whether the Governor was correct to call the party which has less numbers than the alliance which has the majority, has to be tested upon.

He said the first letter of Yeddyurappa was written on May 15 at 5 pm, even before the counting was over or the Election Commission given the certificates to the MLAs.

“Therefore, at that time, it was not clear who has the majority and Yeddyurappa could not have claimed majority at that time in his letter to the Governor,” he said.

His party colleague and senior advocate Kapil Sibal said the Governor cannot have used his discretionary power as signatures of MLAs were placed before him.

During the hearing which went for more than an hour, Yeddyurappa placed before the apex court letters he had sent to Governor Vajubhai Vala in which he had staked claim to form the government in Karnataka.

Yeddyurappa, who was sworn in as the chief minister of Karnataka on Thursday, told the bench that being the single largest party, the BJP had the “mandate of people” of the state who have “thrown out” the Congress.

Rohatgi told the bench that there was no pre-poll alliance between the Congress and JD-S and they have formed an “unholy alliance” after the elections.

“The single largest party (BJP) is the mandate of people of Karnataka who have thrown out the ruling party. The ruling party has much less members than us. There was no pre-poll alliance. It (Congress-JD-S) is an unholy alliance,” Rohatgi said.

The apex court was hearing a petition moved by the Congress-JDS combine challenging the governor’s decision to invite the BJP to form government.

At the outset, the bench asked the Attorney General K K Venugopal, “Have you brought those letters (sent to the Governor by Yeddyurappa)?”

Venugopal told the bench that Yeddyurappa was being represented by Rohatgi, who placed the letters before the bench.

The bench directed Rohatgi to give the copies of the letters to the counsel appearing for Congress-JD-S combine.

Rohtagi, while reading out the operative part of the May 16 letter sent by Yeddyurappa to the Governor, said the BJP leader had said that the party has emerged as the single largest party in the state and they were willing to form the government.         

He also said Yeddyurappa had requested the governor to invite the party to form government and also said that they would provide a “stable government” as they have the “support of others”.

In a historic pre-dawn hearing on Thursday, the top court had after more than three hours of hearing, made it clear that it was not interfering with the Governor’s decision to invite the saffron party to form government in the state in which BJP with 104 seats has emerged as the single largest party.

During the high-voltage hearing, which went on from 2.11 am to 5.28 am, the top court had made it clear that the swearing-in and government formation would be subject to the final outcome of the case.

The court had directed the Centre to place before it two communications sent by Yeddyurappa to the Governor in which he had staked claim to form government, saying their perusal was necessary to decide the case. 

Photograph:Abhishek N Chinnappa/Reuters

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