The Supreme Court on Monday sought response from the Election Commission (EC) on the plea filed by 17 disqualified Karnataka MLA seeking directions to stop byelections to 15 Assembly seats till their case against the suspensions by the assembly speaker is pending. The court also issued notice to the Congress and the Janata Dal (Secular) or JD(S) and the Karnataka assembly speaker in the matter.
While agreeing to hear the case, the apex court said it will hear the arguments at length on Wednesday.
The Election Commission had on Saturday announced that the bypolls to the 15 vacant seats of the disqualified lawmakers will be held on 21 October.
A three-judge bench, headed by justice N V Ramana, agreed to hear the plea for interim relief sought by the disqualified Karnataka.
Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi representing the disqualified MLAs, said in accordance with the orders given by former speaker K R Ramesh Kumar, the MLAs have been barred from contesting elections till 2023. Rohatgi said when the lawmakers submitted their resignation willingly, the Speaker did not accept it, but subsequently disqualified them from contesting elections.
"Our case is that these new elections announced, where the last day of nomination is Monday (30 September), should be stayed. If the matter can't be decided in these days till then, I should be allowed, without prejudice to contest elections, " Rohtagi said.
Opposing the petitions, senior advocate Rakesh Dwivedi, representing the Election Commission, submitted that since the bypolls for the 15 vacant Assembly seats have been announced, the court should not stay the elections. Dwivedi said the EC has no say in the disqualification but is concerned with the vacant seat, so whether the vacancy is due to disqualification or resignation, the election would have to be held.
Kumar had disqualified the MLAs which eventually led to the fall of the Congress-JD(S) coalition government headed by the then chief minister H D Kumaraswamy.
Kumaraswamy resigned as the chief minister after losing a trust vote, which paved the way for the BJP-led government in the southern state under Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa.
The lawmakers have approached the apex court, challenging Kumar's decision to disqualify them.
Some of them have contended in their pleas that the decision taken by Kumar before resigning as the speaker was entirely illegal, arbitrary and mala fide exercise of his power under the 10th Schedule of the Constitution. They have also questioned Kumar's decision to reject their resignations by holding that those were not voluntary and genuine.