September 24, 2019 1:44:12 am
The Election Commission on Monday opposed the plea of the disqualified Karnataka MLAs in the Supreme Court to stay the upcoming bypolls, but said the Speaker’s action disqualifying them cannot deprive them of their right to contest these polls.
“I have no say on the issue of disqualification. The gist of the matter is that the Speaker has disqualified them and vacancy is there. The election should not be stayed,” EC’s counsel told a bench of Justices N V Ramana, Sanjiv Khanna and Krishna Murari, adding that “the Speaker’s order cannot deprive them of the right to contest the elections”.
Issuing notices to the Karnataka Assembly Speaker, the state government and leaders of the state Congress and JD(S), the court fixed September 25 to hear the petitions filed by the 17 disqualified legislators.
Appearing for the former MLAs, senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi pointed out that the last date for filing nominations was September 30 and urged that the bypolls be either stayed or his clients be allowed to contest.
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“We should be entitled to contest the election (bypolls),” he said, adding that the then Speaker K R Ramesh had said in his order that the disqualified MLAs will not be entitled to contest till 2023, when the tenure of the current Assembly would expire.
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for one of the opposing parties, expressed surprise at the EC’s stand.
Rohatgi requested the court to stay the Speaker’s order rejecting their resignations and disqualifying them. The Speaker, he said, had given the MLAs only three days to respond to the disqualification notices. This, added Rohatgi, was completely illegal as the Karnataka Assembly rules mandated a minimum seven-day notice period.
“The seven-day period to file reply to the notice cannot be curtailed and the Speaker had given us only three days to respond. This is completely illegal what the Speaker has done in this case,” he said.
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