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K'taka floor test: SC to hear plea against pro tem speaker appointment

Last updated on: May 18, 2018 23:06 IST

The Congress, in its application termed the governor's action as a "brazen unconstitutional" act to appoint "a junior MLA as the pro tem speaker. 

IMAGE: Karnataka Governor Vajubhai Vala, right, appoints BJP MLA KG Bopaiah, left, as pro tem speaker ahead of floor test. Photograph: PTI Photo 

The Congress-Janata Dal-Secular combine on Friday night moved the Supreme Court challenging Karnataka Governor Vajubhai Vala's decision to appoint K G Bopaiah as the pro tem speaker to conduct the crucial floor test, with the top court deciding to hear it on Saturday morning.

Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra decided to list the matter before the three-judge bench, headed by Justice A K Sikri, which has been hearing the case.


The matter will be heard by the bench, which also comprises Justices S A Bobde and Ashok Bhusha, at 10.30 am, much ahead of the trust vote slated at 4 pm.

The Congress-JDS plea, filed through advocate Dev Dutt Kamath, was placed in the evening before the registrar of the top court but some defects were pointed out in it, which were later corrected.

The cured plea was submitted late at night at the registry and the registrar of the top court rushed to the residence of the CJI for directions on the listing of the matter.

In the application, the combine has demanded setting aside of the decision to appoint Bharatiya Janata Party MLA Bopaiah as the pro tem dpeaker saying it was contrary to the tradition, as per which the post goes to the senior-most legislator.

It termed the governor's action as a "brazen unconstitutional" act to appoint "a junior MLA as the pro tem speaker.

The application also seeks certain urgent directions to ensure that the floor test is conducted in a fair and transparent manner."

Pro tem is a Latin phrase which best translates to "for the time being" or temporary.

Usually, the senior most member is selected as the pro tem speaker for purposes, which also include election of the speaker.

The petition also urged the top court to have video recording of the entire trust vote process and conducting of the floor test through "a ‘division' into separate and segregated lobbies so that the persons in the different lobbies can be counted in a transparent manner."

The petition said "it is submitted that despite the settled parliamentary convention and practice for appointment of a pro tem speaker, a junior MLA Shri KG Bopaiah (BJP) with a dubious and controversial record of passing biased disqualification orders has been appointed as the pro tem Speaker.

"As a matter of fact, the conduct of Shri KG Bopaiah has been severely criticised and strictures have been passed against him by this Hon'ble Court. The disqualification orders passed by him were also set aside as being vitiated with mala fides and undue haste in two judgements of this court."

Alleging "a shocking disregard to binding parliamentary convention and long standing parliamentary practice of appointing the senior most member of the House", the Congress-JDS combine said the governor appointed "a relatively junior member of the House. ... This is in the face of the admitted fact that the senior most MLA is currently serving his 8th tenure but has been overlooked."

The appointment was "nothing but an attempt to seize and manipulate the floor test slated to be held on 19.05.2018 in the House, pursuant to the direction passed by this Hon'ble Court".

The combine alleged that B S Yeddyurappa "in tandem with the Government at the Centre is exercising influence through the Governor of the State to ensure that he sails through the floor test by hook or crook, in absolute disregard to Parliamentary practice and the well established convention of appointing the senior most member as the pro tem speaker."

The governor's decision to appoint Bopaiah came after the top court ordered holding of floor test in the Karnataka assembly on Saturday for ascertaining the majority or otherwise of the B S Yedyurappa government and for immediate appointment of the pro tem Speaker.

In its order, the apex court has enumerated four steps that have to be followed for holding the floor test, directing the immediate appointment of the pro tem speaker, holding the oath ceremony for all elected members on Saturday.

This exercise has to be completed before 4 pm when the floor test will be held to ascertain the majority.

A bench comprising Justices A K Sikri, S A Bobde and Ashok Bhushan also ordered that adequate security arrangements shall be made and Director General of Police of Karnataka would himself supervise all arrangements so that there is no lapse on this count whatsoever.

Hitting out at Governor Vajubhai Vala for the decision, the Congress called him an "agent" of the BJP, and noted that R V Deshpande of the Congress, the senior-most member of the House, should have been appointed in Bopaiah's place.

"Shocking decision by the Hon'ble GovernorConstitutional Convention says the senior most, in this case RV Deshpande should've been named," Karnataka Congress working president Dinesh Gundu Rao said in a tweet.

He said, "Also Supreme Court had passed structures (sic) against the conduct of KG Bopiah as Speaker. Sad to see Vajubhai Valaji behaving like an agent of BJP."

Raising questions over Vala's move, Congress's chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said that the Governor should have had appointed the senior most MLA from the current assembly as the pro tem speaker as per constitutional conventions. According to the Congress, its eight-time MLA R V Deshpande is the senior most lawmaker in the assembly.

Surjewala said it was “utmost important” to follow this practice at a time when the BJP and Vala had “hijacked” and “encountered” democracy in the state and were “conspiring” to “forcibly” form a government led by B S Yeddyurappa in the state.

“Deshpande is the senior most MLA in the Karnataka assembly. Though Deshpande belongs to the Congress, MLAs from the opposition too have always sworn by his reputation and neutrality...but they appointed a three-time MLA KG Bopaiah who is dented and tainted,” Surjewala said.

Surjewala said that Bopaiah, when the latter was assembly speaker in the state between 2009 and 2013, had allegedly violated democratic and constitutional norms to save the previous government of Yeddyurappa, who faced corruption charges then.

A four-time MLA, Bopaiah as the speaker of the Karnataka assembly had disqualified 16 MLAs and bailed out the B S Yeddyurappa government ahead of a no-confidence vote in 2010.

Bopaiah as the pro-tem speaker had administered the oath to newly elected members of the assembly in 2008, when the BJP came to power in Karnataka for the first time under Yeddyurappa.

He was subsequently elected the deputy speaker when Jagadish Shettar, a former chief minister, was the speaker.

In 2009, he was elected the speaker following the resignation of Shettar, who was made a minister.

The governor has, meanwhile, convened a special session of the Karnataka Legislative Assembly on Saturday at 11 am. The pro tem speaker will administer the oath to the MLAs before Yeddyurappa moves the motion seeking vote of confidence of the House at 4 pm.

The Supreme Court earlier on Friday ordered a floor test at 4 PM on Saturday, drastically slashing the 15-day window given by the governor to Yeddyurappa to prove majority.

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