The 3 judge bench of Justices Ashok Bhusan, S.A. Bobde and A.K. Sikri resumed hearing in the Karnataka Election Case. Mr. Mukul Rohatgi presented to the court , the copy of Mr. B.S. Yeddyuruppa’s letter of support that was submitted to the Karnataka Governor. In this letter dated May 16th, Mr. Yeddyuruppa, representing the BJP, had staked claim to form the government by virtue of being the single largest party.
The bench read out the letter, wherein Mr. Yeddyuruppa claimed: “I have the support of others and requisite majority…”. J. Sikri pointed out that Congress-JDS alliance submitted another letter with names of all the MLAs extending their support, indicating requisite majority. J. Sikri further noted that Mr. Yeddyuruppa claimed to have majority but not the names. He questioned the basis on which the Governor chose BJP over the Congress-JDS alliance.
Mr. Rohatgi responded that the Governor acted in his ‘discretion’. He noted that the observations of Sarkaria Commission are mere guidelines; Governor can use his ‘discretion’ to see who can form a stable government. He added that even on the basis of Sarkaria Commission recommendations, BJP is the single largest party with additional support. The Governor was right in giving the first chance to BJP to prove its majority.
Mr. Rohatgi argued that when both parties claimed to a majority, the true test can only be on the floor of the house. Justice Sikri seemed to agree with Mr. Rohatgi and remarked: “..an alternative is floor test and tomorrow itself…". He believed that the other option of hearing the substantive question of who should be called first for the floor test will delay the matter. Justice Sikri observed that the floor test should be conducted first and substantive question of law can be decided later.
Mr. Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for the Congress, intervened by saying that Mr. B. S. Yeddyuruppa claimed to have a majority without submitting the names. On the other hand, Congress- JDS alliance had submitted a letter of support with names of all 117 MLAs. He questioned the governor’s discretion in inviting BJP to form the government. He added that, given a chance, Congress and JDS were ready to prove their majority the next day.
Mr. Rohatgi responded by raising questions on the authenticity of the letter of support submitted by Congress. He said that the letter was not accompanied by signatures of MLAs and floor test will clarify the exact numbers that they have. Mr. Kapil Sibal who was also appearing on behalf of Congress demanded immediate floor test.
Justice Sikri instructed Mr. Rohatgi that the nomination for Anglo-Indian cannot be filled unless BJP proves its majority. Mr. Rohatgi sought more time to prove their majority and said that a day’s time would be too little. However, the bench ordered that floor test will be conducted on 19th May at 4.00 P.M. The bench instructed the government to not carry out any major policy decision till the floor test is concluded.
(The post relies on inputs by Ms. Ashrutha Rai)