By Sumit Saxena
New Delhi, July 16 (IANS) The Supreme Court on Tuesday questioned the contention of the Speaker of the Karnataka Assembly, which apparently indicated that the court had no jurisdiction over him.
Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, representing the Speaker, argued before the court that it could have probably refrained from issuing specific direction to the Speaker on the petition filed by the MLAs.
Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi retorted that the counsel was attempting to confine the limits of the court’s jurisdiction, and if he was, then it was not favourable to the works of the Constitution in place.
The Speaker could not question the top court’s jurisdiction, the Chief Justice observed. “When the court, apparently to your benefit, had ordered a floor test (citing the situation in the Karnataka Assembly last year), and for the same a pro-tem Speaker was appointed in a midnight hearing…you didn’t see any issue. But now you have issue with the jurisdiction of the court. The exercise of jurisdiction of our powers depends only on self-restraint,” said the court.
“You didn’t say anything then because the decision suited you,” the CJI continued the line of questioning to Singhvi.
To this Singhvi replied that during the midnight hearing, there was no government, Legislative Assembly and the Speaker. Therefore, the apex court had to intervene and order a floor test along with the pro-tem Speaker’s appointment.
“In such scenario, no government could have been formed in Karnataka. It was different case”, said Singhvi. The court apparently did not seem impressed with this contention.
Then the CJI sought the response what restrained the Speaker from deciding on the resignation of MLAs. “He could have termed them as involuntary, but why didn’t the Speaker decide. Why can’t the Speaker decide the resignation and the take a call on disqualification?” said the Chief Justice.
After Singhvi wrapped up his argument, senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan, who represented the Karnataka Chief Minister, begun his arguments contesting the court’s intervention in a political matter.
Dhavan also termed the top court’s two interim orders, one asking the Speaker to decide on resignation and then ordering a status quo till Tuesday on resignation and disqualification, beyond its jurisdiction.
“This is not the Speaker vs Court. Instead it’s the Chief Minister versus people who want to bring down his government. The court should have not entertained this petition. It has no jurisdiction in the matter”, Dhavan argued stating that the apex court was wrong having been engaged to decide on the petition.
He argued the judicial review by the top court could not come before the Speaker’s decision. “How can there be interlocutory stage in this matter, and the voluntary aspect of these resignations cannot be decided in a mechanical fashion”, said Dhavan insisting that the court should not come in way of vote of confidence motion in the Assembly.
Interestingly, the court didn’t respond to Dhavan’s arguments, as it did in Singhvi’s case. Rather it pronounced that the court would pass an order on Wednesday morning.
(Sumit Saxena can be contacted at [email protected])