New Delhi, May 18 (Indian Express): The Indian Supreme Court on Friday asked Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader of Karnataka State B S Yeddyurappa, to prove his majority on the floor of the Karnataka State Assembly at 4 pm on Saturday.
A bench of Justices A K Sikri, S A Bobde and Ashok Bhushan said that the best way to decide whether the BJP or the Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) has a simple majority in the House is to test it on the floor of the House. The court rejected the plea of the Central government’s counsel K.K.Venugopal that there be secret ballot. The members will vote in full view of everybody.
The court also said that the BJP Chief Minister B.S.Yeddyurappa should not take any policy decisions till the voting results are announced.
The court asked the House to appoint a protem Speaker conduct the floor test.The Director General of Police was asked to ensure law and order. It also said that no Anglo-Indian MLA should be nominated before the floor test.
The bench said that going by Sarkaria Commission report, inviting largest party was not “illegal”, but keeping in view the “circumstance of the case” it thought it fit to order a floor test without delay.
Justice Sikri said, “Ultimately it is a number game. The Governor has to decide….yes the Governor has to objectively satisfy himself…”.
“The situation is that on one hand, there is a party which has given names and other simply claims it has support. How do we decide? Sarkaria says largest party (be invited to form party). After that, if there was a pre-poll alliance, it was highest. Rationale being that voters knew they were projecting themselves. So, as far as post poll alliances are concerned, it is kept below largest party because voters didn’t know they would come together…there would be question of will of people…Majority has to be proved on the floor of the House”.
The court had on the last date of hearing on May 17 had said that it wanted to see the two letters dated May 15 and 16 written by Yeddyurappa to Governor staking claim to form government.
Appearing for Yedyurappa Friday, Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi produced the two letters. He read out the letters which said Yedyurappa had the numbers of his party with some others but did not disclose the names of the others.
On this, Rohatgi said he was not required to disclose the names. “In a nutshell, the mandate is for largest party. Mandate is for change…There is no requirement for us to declare names of those in these two parties who support us…there is an atmosphere of apprehension. MLAs have been taken to resorts…We fear they (MLAs) are not being allowed to vote according to their conscience…”.
After perusing the letters, the court said it had two options before it. “Either we hear it in detail…or we order floor test tomorrow itself. We don’t give any time to anybody”.
Senior Advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who appeared for the petitioners Karnataka Congress Chief G Parameshwara and JD(S) President H D Kumaraswamy, said the question was “is it fair to call someone with fewer numbers”.
“Look at the intent (of the Governor) to give 15 days after inviting A for B or B for C..”.
Replied Justice Bobde: “whoever may be called, decision is that of House”.
Rohatgi in his argument said that he had doubts regarding the Congress letter to the Governor and claimed that the part with signatures was likely “withheld” from him. He said many of those who were said to have signed it, had not actually signed. “They said Anand Singh signed. But he did not sign”.
Countering this, Singhvi said the Congress-JD(S) letter had all the details and added Yedyurappa’s letter must have had more details of the support he enjoyed.
As the bench indicated again that it will order floor test tomorrow, Rohatgi pleaded for more “reasonable” time saying one day was too short. But the court said “we will not compromise on this”.
Senior Counsel Kapil Sibal said the Congress and JD(S) had the numbers. But Rohtagi questioned this: “I am disputing the signatures. Only floor test can show if they are real”.
Attorney General K K Venugopal appearing for Union of India urged the bench if it would consider a secret ballot. But the bench turned this down.
It also rejected the Congress-JD(S) request to lay down how the voting should be conducted and said it will be done as per the rules of the House.
(The featured image at the top shows the Karnataka State Assembly, the Vidana Saudha)