New Delhi:After a four-hour long post-midnight hearing on a Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) petition, the Supreme Court in the early hours of Thursday refused to stay Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader B.S. Yeddyurppa’s swearing-in as Karnataka chief minister.
Following this, Yeddyuruppa took the oath of office and secrecy from Karnataka governor Vajubhai Vala at 9am.
The Supreme Court made it clear that the swearing-in and the government formation would be subject to its final order on the Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) petition before it.
A three-judge bench, comprising justices A. K. Sikri, S. A. Bobde and Ashok Bhushan, directed that the letter sent by the BJP to the governor for forming the state government be placed before it. The bench posted the matter for further hearing on Friday, saying it will peruse the letter as it was necessary to decide the matter. It also issued notices to the Karnataka government and Yeddyurappa.
“We can’t speculate what kind of majority has been claimed until we see the letters," observed justice Bobde.
Senior lawyer and jurist Ram Jethmalani also approached the top court on Thursday in his personal capacity against the Karnataka governor’s decision, calling it a gross abuse of constitutional power. Their pleas will be heard along with the main case on 18 May.
Late on Wednesday, the governor invited Yeddyurappa to be sworn in as chief minister and form the government, and gave 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 Mishra constituted a three-judge bench for the case, which began hearing the petition at 2am.
Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for the Congress-JD(S) alliance appealed to the three-judge bench to either defer the swearing-in or quash the governor’s decision inviting BJP to form the government. He argued that the swearing-in was a purely ministerial, non-statutory and an executive function which could be deferred. “Swearing-in is reversible. What is the great loss caused to another political party if it is deferred?"
Singhvi further relied on the recommendations of the Sarkaria Commission to buttress his case for the Congress-JD(S) post-poll alliance.
Deferring the swearing-in, however, was seen as an injunction over the powers exercised by the governor by former attorney general Mukul Rohatgi, who appeared for two BJP MLAs representing Yeddyurappa. Rohatgi said that the Supreme Court should not stop a constitutional functionary from discharging his functions. His actions are amenable through judicial review, but an injunction would lead to disturbing Article 361 of the Constitution, he added. He also suggested that the time period for proving majority in the House be reduced from 15 to 7 days.
Questions over the urgency in the matter were also raised by Rohatgi from time to time during the hearing: “ I’m still surprised that this case is being heard. At the last instance when the court assembled for three hours after midnight, a man was about to be hanged," he said. He also criticized the Congress’s decision to file a petition before the floor test. “What is the purpose of stopping this when it’s reversible? Not that permanent damage will be done."
The centre, in line with Rohatgi’s arguments, submitted that Yeddyurappa’s swearing-in should not be stopped and that the floor test should allowed to take place.
In its petition, the Congress sought quashing of the governor’s invite to Yeddyurappa to form the government, terming it “unconstitutional, arbitrary and illegal". Such an action is violative of Article 14 of the Constitution of India, it added.
The Karnataka election results declared Tuesday threw up a fractured mandate. The BJP won 104 seats, the Congress 78 and JD(S) 37. One seat each went to the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), Karnataka Pragnyavantha Janatha Party and an independent candidate.
The BJP said it must be invited to form government as it is 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 the JD(S).
On Thursday, the Congress-JD(S) also challenged the decision of governor Vala to nominate an Anglo-Indian member to the assembly, saying it should not be done till the floor test in the House. Later in the day, Clive Michael VanBuerle, vice-president of ‘All-India Anglo Indian Association’ moved court for protection of his rights and the rights of his community under Article 14 and 21 of the Constitution of India against the decision before a floor test.