Supreme Court observations on disqualified Karnataka MLAs Case

A three judges bench comprising  Justice N.V. Ramana, Justice Sanjiv Khanna and Krishna Murari on 13th November 2019 allowed the Disqualified MLAs to contest election before 2023 in the following  Writ Petition and observed as below :




152. In light of the discussion above, summary of law as held herein is as follows:

a. The Speaker, while adjudicating a disqualification petition, acts as a quasi­judicial authority and the validity of the orders thus passed can be questioned before this Court under Article 32 of the Constitution. However, ordinarily, the party challenging the disqualification is required to first approach the High Court as the same would be appropriate, effective and expeditious.

b. The Speaker’s scope of inquiry with respect to acceptance or rejection of a resignation tendered by a member of the legislature is limited to examine whether such a resignation was tendered voluntarily or genuinely. Once it is demonstrated that a member is willing to resign out of his free will, the speaker has no option but to accept the resignation. It is constitutionally impermissible for the Speaker to take into account any extraneous factors while considering the resignation. The satisfaction of the Speaker is subject to judicial review.

c. Resignation and disqualification on account of defection under the Tenth Schedule, both result in vacancy of the seat held by the member in the legislature, but further consequences envisaged are different.

d. Object and purpose of the Tenth Schedule is to curb the evil of political defection motivated by lure of office or rather similar considerations that endanger the foundation of our democracy. By the 91st Constitutional Amendment, Articles 71 (1B), 164(1B) and 361B were enacted to ensure that a member disqualified by the Speaker on account of defection is not appointed as a Minister or holds any remunerative political post from the date of disqualification or till the date on which his term of office would expire or he/she is re­elected to the legislature, whichever is earlier.

e. Disqualification relates back to the date when the act of defection takes place. Factum and taint of disqualification does not vaporise by tendering a resignation letter to the Speaker. A pending or impending disqualification action does not become infructuous by submission of the resignation letter, when act(s) of disqualification have arisen prior to the member’s resignation letter.

f. In the earlier Constitution Bench judgment of Kihoto Hollohan (supra), the order of the Speaker under Tenth Schedule can be subject to judicial review on four grounds: mala fide, perversity, violation of the constitutional mandate and order passed in violation of natural justice.

g. Our findings on allegations of not granting specific time in all the above cases are based on the unique facts and circumstances of the case. It should not be understood to mean that the Speaker could cut short the hearing period. The Speaker should give sufficient opportunity to a member before deciding a disqualification proceeding and ordinarily follow the time limit prescribed in the Rules of the Legislature.

h. In light of the existing Constitutional mandate, the Speaker is not empowered to disqualify any member till the end of the term. However, a member disqualified under the Tenth Schedule shall be subjected to sanctions provided under Articles 75(1B), 164(1B) and 361B of Constitution, which provides for a bar from being appointed as a Minister or from holding any remunerative political post from the date of disqualification till the date on which the term of his office would expire or if he is re­elected to the legislature, whichever is earlier.

i. There is a growing trend of the Speaker acting against the constitutional duty of being neutral. Further horse trading and corrupt practices associated with defection and change of loyalty for lure of office or wrong reasons have not abated. Thereby the citizens are denied stable governments. In these circumstances, there is need to consider strengthening certain aspects, so that such undemocratic practices are discouraged and checked.

j. The existence of a substantial question of law does not weigh on the stakes involved in the case, rather, it depends on the impact the “question of law” will have on the final determination. If the questions having a determining effect on the final outcome have already been decided by a conclusive authority, then such questions cannot be called as “substantial questions of law”. In any case, no substantial question of law exists in the present matter, which needs reference to a larger bench.