The court of Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi on Tuesday saw lengthy arguments for nearly five hours as it heard the case related to resignation by 15 Congress MLAs of Karnataka, with contentions and counter contentions revolving around the legislative procedures.
Rebel MLAs said, as per the law, the Assembly Speaker could not force them to continue after they have resigned from their seats voluntarily.
Speaker K.R. Ramesh Kumar, on the other hand, argued that resignation cannot be an escape route to avoid disqualification.
Explaining the legal provisions of the Karnataka Assembly, senior advocate and former Attorney general Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for rebel legislators, told the top court that Rule 202 of the Rules of Procedure of the Karnataka Legislative Assembly state that "a member who desires to resign his seat in the House shall intimate in writing under his hand addressed to the Speaker his intention to resign his seat in the House and shall not give any reason for his resignation".
The subsequent sub-rule, 202(2), said: "If a member hands over the letter of resignation to the Speaker personally and informs him that the resignation is voluntary and genuine and the Speaker has no information or knowledge to the contrary, and if he is satisfied, the Speaker may accept resignation immediately."
His submission came before the bench of the Chief Justice which also included Justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose.
The top court reserved its verdict which will be delivered on Wednesday morning.
Rohatgi, in his argument, pressed for acceptance of the resignations.
"Constitutional Rules mandate the Speaker to decide immediately, provided it is genuine and voluntary. The Speaker has no mandate under the Constitution to go into my mind or my heart to find out why I have resigned," he said.
Rohatgi said it will lead to absurdity if a disqualification is kept pending for years and the resignation is also not decided.
He maintained that resignation and disqualification process can not be mixed.
He also explained differences in consequences of resignation and disqualification and pointed out that one important aspect being that on resignation, the MLA can join other party, contest by elections and become a minister.
Rohatgi said he is not against the disqualification proceedings and it can be continued.
"But I (rebel MLA) am saying I don't want to be an MLA. I don't want to defect. I want to go back to public and do whatever I want to do," he said.
Terming the act of the Speaker as irrelevant and ridiculous, he said: "Article 190 says if resignation is by hand and there is no other material, the Speaker has to take a decision as fast as possible. The Speaker cannot keep it pending."
He also questioned the Speaker's reasoning that rebel legislators' resignation was to avoid disqualification and said it does not mean it is involuntary.
"I have a fundamental right to resign and walk away," Rohatgi maintained.
He accused the Speaker of supporting a government which has lost majority in the Assembly.
Countering the legislators' submission, the Speaker's counsel Abhishek Manu Singhvi said the law suggests that MLAs have to appear before the Speaker in person and tender their resignations. But here, 11 of the 15 MLAs handed over resignations personally to the Speaker on July 11. Four of the MLAs are yet to do so and all this happened in pursuance of court's order.
Responding to the court's queries as to why the Speaker is not taking a decision on the resignations, Singhvi said the Speaker is looking at both resignations and disqualification holistically.
(Amiya Kumar Kushwaha can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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