Mehta was representing the office of the present Karnataka Assembly Speaker Vishweshwar Hegde Kageri.
“We have no difficulty in hearing them all (disqualified MLAs) and take a fresh call,” Mehta told a bench of Justices N. V. Ramana, Sanjiv Khanna and Krishna Murari.
The top court was hearing the plea of 17 Karnataka MLAs who had challenged their disqualification. In July, then state Assembly Speaker K. R. Ramesh Kumar had disqualified the rebel MLAs, rejecting the resignations tendered by them. Those MLAs had remained absent from the House on July 23 when former Chief Minister H. D. Kumaraswamy put the confidence motion to vote.
The disqualified legislators had moved the top court challenging the actions of the then Speaker saying that it was in gross violation of the orders passed by the apex court, completely illegal and unconstitutional.
Mehta told the court that under the scheme of Constitution, a lawmaker has a right to resign and speaker should accept it.
“Under the scheme of the Constitution, as I have read, a legislator has the right to resign. Except the contingency provided in Article 190(3), there is no room for resignation being rejected,” Mehta said.
Article 190 (3) of the Constitution envisages that the Speaker has to only ascertain whether the resignation of a lawmaker is voluntary and genuine and if not, he will not accept such resignations.
Appearing for disqualified MLAs, Senior Advocate V. Giri told a bench headed by Justice N. V. Ramana that the order passed by then Speaker cannot be interfered with on procedural irregularities but it can be interfered with on the ground of violation of natural justice. Senior Advocate Giri also questioned the hurried manner in which disqualification petition was decided.
Appearing for Kumaraswamy, Senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan told the court that resignation is a privilege granted to MLAs subject to Speaker’s call.
Stressing that defection is the biggest evil in elections, Dhavan asked, “can Speaker ignore material before him which makes it obvious that something is wrong with the resignation given to him.”
Rajeev Dhavan also raised issues related to absence of disqualified MLAs from party meetings and their presence in hotels hobnobbing with BJP leaders.
Arguments will continue on Friday.