Karnataka: BJP asked to prove majority today
New Delhi: The floor test to prove the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP’s) majority in the Karnataka assembly will be held on Saturday at 4pm, the Supreme Court said on Friday, while turning down a request by Attorney General K.K. Venugopal to allow a secret ballot for the exercise.
A pro tem speaker will preside and choose the manner in which the floor test is conducted, the court said. Karnataka governor Vajubhai Vala has appointed BJP MLA K. G. Bopaiah as the pro tem speaker.
A three-judge bench comprising justices A.K. Sikri, S.A. Bobde and Ashok Bhushan also stopped the BJP from nominating a member of the Anglo-Indian community to the assembly until after the floor test.
Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for two BJP MLAs, gave an undertaking to the court that no policy decision would be taken by Karnataka chief minister B.S. Yeddyurappa in the meantime.
“Floor test is the best option. Let the larger question of law, whether governor can invite to form the government or not, be decided later,” Sikri said.
It is a numbers game and those enjoying the majority should be allowed to form the government, he said.
This was disputed by Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for the Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) alliance, who wondered how the Karnataka governor could think that the BJP could prove its majority when the Congress and the JD(S) together had the majority of MLAs.
Yeddyuruppa took oath as Karnataka chief minister on Thursday after the apex court refused a Congress-JD(S) plea for a stay on the swearing-in.
The court also directed that the letter sent by the BJP to the governor for forming the state government be placed before it.
On Wednesday, governor Vala invited Yeddyurappa to take oath as chief minister and form the government, giving him 15 days to prove majority support on the floor of the assembly. Hours later, the Congress and JD(S) moved the Supreme Court, challenging this decision. Chief Justice Dipak Misra constituted a three-judge bench which began hearing the petition at 2am.
Singhvi had appealed to the three-judge bench to either defer the swearing-in or quash the governor’s decision inviting the BJP to form the government. He argued that the swearing-in was a purely ministerial, non-statutory and executive function which could be deferred.
He cited recommendations of the Sarkaria Commission to buttress the case for the Congress-JD(S) post-poll alliance to form the government.
Rohatgi, however, said deferring the swearing-in would be tantamount to an injunction over the powers exercised by the governor. He said that the Supreme Court should not stop a constitutional functionary from discharging their functions. Their actions are amenable through a judicial review, but an injunction would lead to disturbing Article 361 of the Constitution, he argued.
The Karnataka election results declared on Tuesday gave a fractured mandate, with the BJP winning 104 seats, the Congress 78 and the JD(S) 37. One seat each went to the Bahujan Samaj Party, Karnataka Pragnyavantha Janatha Party and an independent candidate.
The BJP then said it must be invited to form the government as it was the single largest party. Yeddyurappa said his party will “form the government 100%”, and accused the Congress of making “unholy attempts” to grab power by offering support to JD(S).
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