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Karnataka Governor Vajubhai Vala’s 15-day breather given to the BJP to prove its strength has been curtailed to less than 48 hours by the Supreme Court. On Friday (May 18) morning the Supreme Court bench of Justices A K Sikri, SA Bobde and Ashok Bhusan also ordered that the new Chief Minister of Karnataka, B. S. Yeddyurappa of the BJP cannot take any policy decisions. And capping it all was the order that there should be a floor test to decide which is the party that gets to rule Karnataka after Governor Vajubhai Vala on Wednesday (May 16) at 9pm decided to call the largest party (the BJP with 104 MLAs) to form the government. Yeddyurappa had taken just 12 hours later.

The floor test will be held tomorrow at 4pm.

The policy decision order I critical. Immediately after taking charge, Yeddyurappa had given a large number of transfer orders and had recommended to the Governor to nominate an Anglo Indian member to the assembly as per rule. This would have boosted the BJP’ number by one. This has also been rejected by the top court.

Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala later tweeted: “Constitution wins, Democracy restored! B S Yeddyurappa does remain a 1-day CM – Constitution rejects an illegitimate CM as also the unconstitutional decision of Governor of Karnataka (sic).”

At around 10.40am on Friday Attorney General K K Venugopal made his submission that he had brought with him relevant letters, copies of which were being served to other parties.

Senior advocate Mukul Rohatagi, representing the BJP, said that the party had the support of the majority. That was the first letter. The opposition parties’ contention is that 112 is a figure that has eluded the BJP and that the Congress and the JDS have pooled their strengths to make 117 (Cong 78 + JDS 37 + BSP 1 + KPJP 1), while there was a maximum of 105 in BJP’s kitty (BJP 104 + Independent 1).

This comes to 222, while two more seats will have repoll.

The second letter was about invitation to the party with the largest mandate. The letter was read out.

Justice Sikri said: “They have signed the letter and submitted it. There are two parts: one part is about this party which has the majority, and the other is the governor recommending somebody. So on what basis did the governor take the decision?” He said that the main objective is who enters the arena first.

Rohatagi said he has instructions that this letter was not given to the governor. It was some other letter. He alleged that the signatures were fake.

Justice Sikri said that it was a simple numbers game: “Whoever has the majority will form the government.”

He then went onto the second part, which is the post-poll alliance: “Two parties who are contesting against each other team up after the poll. But if a party has the majority then it has the right to form the government.”

Justice Sikri further said: “There are two coordinates: first whether the act of the governor was right and the second is, we can have floor test.”

Abhisekh Manu Singhvi of the Congress said: “Your lordship will not merge the issues.”

Justice Sikri said: “That’s why we are saying to have a floor test.”

The counsel for the state said that the governor never received signed letters (from the Cong-JDS alliance). He said that the governor only received a letter.

Kapil Sibal of the Congress said that the governor has to follow the principle under 164. Under article 164, the governor has a discretionary power.

At that point Rohatagi also said: “I am disputing the signatures. Let’s have a floor test.” He also pointed out that the governor gave 15 days, because “a house has to be constituted and all MLAs have to be summoned, speaker has to be appointed and a common agenda has to be in place.”

Rohatgi relied on the Sarkaria Commission report when the bench ordered that the floor test has to be taken up within one day, stating that some time should be given for proving the majority; even the Sarkaria Commission has given 30 days time.

Justice Sikri said: “We have to balance the equity.”

Rohatgi said: “Balance can’t be achieved in one day.”

Senior advocate Ram Jethmalani, who had impleaded himself, said: “The law has to be right. In this case the governor has not  acted properly.”

To that Justice Sikri said: “The governor also has a high authority as per the constitution.”

The bench said: “Have a floor test tomorrow.”

To that Rohatagi said: “I need time to get my flock together.”

That appeal for time was rejected by the bench and decided on 2pm Saturday. However, this was later changed to 4pm later.

The court order said:

  1. Affidavit to be filed.
  2. Floor test to be held at4pmtomorrow.
  3. No policy decisions to be taken by the CM
  4. Security to be provided by DGP.
  5. No Anglo Indian to be appointed

Please read the full judgment here.

–  India Legal Bureau

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