Karnataka Elections: No stay on BS Yeddyurappa’s swearing in ceremony but it’s subject to the outcome of the case: SC

Supreme Court: In yet another high-profile election drama, when the Congress-JDS approached the Supreme Court at late hours of Wednesday to stall the swearing in ceremony of BJP candidate BS Yeddyurappa as the Karnataka Chief Minister after the Karnataka Governor Vajubhai Vala asked him to seek trust votes in the floor test within 15 days of his swearing in, the 3-judge bench of Dr AK Sikri, SA Bobde and Ashok Bhushan, JJ directed:

“As far as swearing-in is concerned, we are not restraining it, but we are making it subject to the outcome of the case.”

In the hearing that began at 01:45 AM, Congress-JDS contended that despite presenting the list of 116 MLAs, governor Vajubhai Vala has invited the BJP which has 104 MLAs to form the government and has given relatively longer time of 15 days to prove the majority on the floor of the House.

Below are the highlights of the midnight drama that transpired post Karnataka Election:

  • Senior Advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi (For Congress-JDS):
    • There are innumerable instances where combination of post-poll group was called despite there was a different single largest party, one such instance being the Goa Elections Goa where BJP outnumbering single largest party was called to form the Government and the Supreme Court had upheld this.
    • We are challenging the act of Governor not calling us. Should a person be given 15 days for proving majority? Governor can’t negate democracy and after the swearing in happens I can’t come to Supreme Court.
    • 104 ahead of 116 is adding insult to the injury. Giving 15 days is encouraging unconstitutional sin of poaching.
  • Bench: it is to be considered whether the Court can restrain a Governor,
  • Singhvi: Governor action is subject to judicial review. The argument is court should not issue injunction and judicial review is not the question.
  • Bench: We don’t even have the letter other party has written to governor.  How can we decide?
  • Singhvi: In Meghalaya, Manipur and Goa, Congress was the single-largest party but BJP and other parties were invited to form Government. Governor’s exercise of Government duty is under judicial review. Court can question Governor. Supreme Court can defer the swearing-in.
  • Bench: You want us to scrutinise discretion of governor but you don’t have letter given to governor which found basis for inviting BJP.
  • Singhvi: Governor doesn’t give any reason in calling BJP. Claim of BS Yeddyurappa is leader of BJP whereas Kumaraswamy is claiming Congress support. Unless Supreme Court sees Mr Yeddyurappa’s letter to the Governor, the court can defer the swearing-in. On what basis the governor invited BS Yeddyurappa.

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  • Attorney General KK Venugopal (For BJP): Defection is one member crosses to other party. Defection law won’t apply before he is swearing in as MLA.
  • Bench: You mean before swearing in MLAs can switch sides? In a case like this how you will have more numbers when the other side has already given 116 to Governor. JDS and Congress outweigh BJP. In a situation like this on what basis Mr Yeddyurappa has staked claimed. The arithmetic defies in what way he was invited to form Government.
  • AG: Even if swearing-in takes place it is reversible. Once the floor test takes place real picture will be known.
  • Bench: Why 15 days were given by the governor?
  • AG: It is governor’s decision. Waiting for 15 days heavens will not fall. What’s the purpose of stopping the swearing-in? Let the floor test take place.
  • Bench: Your argument is floor test will fail.
  • AG: We don’t know.
  • Bench: What’s bothering us is the fluid situation.
  • AG: The the time given to BJP for proving majority can be reduced to seven days

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  • Former Attorney General and Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi (For BJP): This case should have never been taken up at midnight.
  • Bench: On what basis you are claiming?
  • Rohatgi: 
    • Heavens won’t fall if someone is sworn in. Last time Supreme Court heard in night, the case related to hanging of Yakub Memon.
    • Congress wants injunction and wants governor not to discharge his function. Action of swearing can always be reversed by Supreme Court.
    • Question is can court stop governor from discharging his constitutional duty? Can Supreme Court stop President from signing warrant of appointing judges? Job of governor is to give oath – whether right or wrong.
    • Supreme Court can’t ask governor to file affidavit and can’t issue notice.
  • Bench: Is this your interpretation that governor action amenable but the governor as individual not answerable to court?
  • Rohatgi: 
    • Yes. Governor can’t be stopped to do his job. It is unheard of.
    • Supreme Court can reduce time period from 15 to 10 or 7 days for BJP to prove majority.

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  • Bench: Swearing in will go on.
  • Singhvi: Don’t stay the swearing-in but defer it for two days. Defer swearing-in for at least till 4.30 and ask Mr Yeddyurappa to produce the letter he gave to the governor.
  • Bench: This petition is a subject of hearing later on.

Supreme Court issued notice to BS Yeddyurappa and other respondent’s and listed the matter for further hearing on 18.05.2018. The Court, in it’s order, said:

“it is necessary to peruse the letters dated 15th May, 2018 and 16th May, 2018 submitted by the respondent No.3 to the Governor which find a mention in the communication dated16th May, 2018 of the Hon’ble Governor.”

Without passing any order staying the oath ceremony of the new Karanataka Chief Minsiter, the Court said:

“In case, he is given oath in the meantime, that shall be subject to further orders of this Court and final outcome of the writ petition.”

[Dr. G. Parmeshwara v. Union of India, WRIT PETITION (CIVIL) Diary No.19482/2018, order dated 17.05.2018]

(With inputs from NDTV)

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