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Karnataka Assembly Floor Test: Supreme Court rejects Congress plea, Bopaiah to continue as pro tem speaker

Challenging the appointment of Bopaiah as pro tem Speaker, the Congress pointed out that he had courted controversy in 2010 when, as Speaker, he disqualified 11 BJP MLAs who had revolted against Yeddyurappa and announced the withdrawal of support.

Written by Ananthakrishnan G | New Delhi |
Updated: May 19, 2018 3:19:23 pm
AG Mukul Rohtagi addresses the media at the supreme court. (Express Photo by Tashi Tobgyal)

The Supreme Court Saturday rejected a last-ditch attempt by the Congress-JD(S) combine to stall the appointment of BJP’s K G Bopaiah as pro tem Speaker of the Karnataka Assembly, only hours before the B S Yeddyurappa government takes the floor test at 4 pm.

A bench of Justices A K Sikri, S A Bobde and Ashok Bhushan refused to interfere with the decision. “Unless convention has become a legal norm which can be enforced by a court, how can we do anything?” the court asked the petitioners, Congress state unit head K G Parameshwara and JD(S) president H D Kumaraswamy, who had contended that the “convention” was to appoint the senior-most member of the House as pro tem Speaker. Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for petitioners, sought to bring up Bopaiah’s past saying the court had passed structures against him. He contended that the appointment was also against the “convention of appointing the senior-most member of the House as pro tem Speaker”. Follow Karnataka Assembly Floor Test LIVE 

Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi appearing for BS Yedyurappa and Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta appearing for Karnataka government sought to contradict this saying there were earlier instances such as in Jharkhand where juniors were appointed pro tem Speaker.

Justice Bobde also questioned Sibal’s contention and said, “The authority is doubtful. I don’t want to contradict. But please check the case of (appointment) Balasaheb Vikhe Patil (as pro tem speaker)…Sheesh Ram Ola was senior..I think it’s the 14th Lok Sabha.”

READ | Karnataka pro tem Speaker case: Here are the arguments that took place in Supreme Court today

As Sibal pressed his demand, Justice Bobde replied, “You want us to consider his suitability and cast an aspersion on him…we must issue notice to him, hear him and postpone floor test.”

Sibal said the floor test can go on. “Let him take oath but let him not take the trust vote.”

But Justice Sikri pointed out that it was the petitioners who wanted it to appoint a pro tem Speaker at the last hearing. Sibal replied: “Yesterday we didn’t see this glitch.”

Said Justice Bobde, “You are coming from a zone of contradictions as we see it.” The petitioners, he added, wanted the court to review its order (asking pro tem Speaker to conduct the floor test) while wanting the floor test to go ahead as scheduled.

READ | Ex-Speaker who once saved BS Yeddyurappa to conduct floor test, Congress goes to SC

“Supposing for argument, we accept your request, where does it take us?” asked Justice Sikri. “Who will conduct floor test them…Should we appoint (pro tem speaker…no we can’t.”

The court also turned down Sibal’s submission that it could ask the Governor to do the needful.

Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi spearing for B S Yeddyurappa opposed the plea saying “you can’t go on making applications every day…They think the Supreme Court is waiting for them everyday”.

At this point Mehta, appearing for Karnataka government, submitted that a decision had been taken to live telecast the floor test through “local channels”. “What more transparency is needed,” he asked.

The submission was received heartily by the bench with Justice Sikri telling the ASG, “Thank you Mr Mehta. I think it resolves every doubt.”

Mehta submitted that the live feed will be given to “several” channels so that they can telecast it live and added it will be recorded by the Assembly Secretariat.

The court pointed out it should not be just one channel.

“It’s the hottest item in Karnataka now. If the channels don’t show this, what else are they going to show?” Rohatgi quipped as the court burst into laughter.

Sibal and Abhishek Manu Singhvi agreed that it addresses their concerns. The petitioners had sought videography of the proceedings.

The court then went on to dictate the order and said the floor test should be the only item on the agenda Saturday.

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