SC refuses to stay swearing-in of BS Yeddyurappa

NEW DELHI/BENGALURU: The three-judge bench of the Supreme Court has refused to stay the swearing-in of BJP’s BS Yeddyurappa as Karnataka Chief Minister at 9 am on Thursday.

SC refuses to stay swearing-in of BS Yeddyurappa

Congress leader Abhishek Singhvi and (R) ex-AG Mukul Rohatgi, representing BJP, arrive at the SC. PTI

Satya Prakash 

Tribune News Service

New Delhi/Bengaluru, May 17

The three-judge bench of the Supreme Court has refused to stay the swearing-in of BJP’s BS Yeddyurappa as Karnataka Chief Minister at 9 am on Thursday.



--- The Bench, headed by Justice AK Sikri, says the swearing-in will be subject to outcome of the case. But AM Singhvi is still insisting that swearing be deferred by 10-12 hours.

--- The SC says it will issue notice and hear all parties and then decide the Congress-JD(S) petition. 

--- More than 20 minutes after SC said: "We are not going to stop the swearing-in," arguments are still on.

--- Justice Sikri asks about the number of days needed to prove majority. Rohatgi says it can be decided later.

--- Rohatgi recalls midnight hearing on Yakub Memon's hanging; says this case should not have been heard like this. He was then Attorney General. 

--- Rohatgi counters Singhvi's arguments, says in Goa, Congress didn't stake claim in 2017. 

--- Justice SA Bobde to Singhvi: If the lone MLA of a party is made Chief Minister by Governor, that Chief Minister can be injuncted by the Court from functioning.

--- SC dictating order: Justice Sikri says no to stopping BSY's swearing-in. 

--- But BSY's fate will depend on the outcome of the Congress-JD(S) petition.

--- SC issues notice to parties, asks AG to get the letters issued by the Governor inviting BSY to take oath.

--- Further hearing at 10.30 am on Friday, May 18.

With the Karnataka power tussle turning into a midnight courtroom battle, the Supreme Court said the general trend of its past judgments was not to restrain the Governor. The apex court also asked could it restrain the Governor from inviting a party to form the government, to which senior lawyer and Congress leader Abhishek Singhvi said the Supreme Court had done so in the past.

The court said was it not a convention that the single largest party got invited by the Governor to form government and prove majority. The three-judge Bench, comprising justices AK Sikri, SA Bobde and Ashok Bhushan, said they were wondering whether the Supreme Court could restrain the Governor, which might lead to constitutional vacuum in the state.

With Singhvi arguing that the Constitution gave immunity to the Governor only for discharge of duties, the Bench asked whether he wanted the court to scrutinise discretion of the Governor when it did not have the letter given to Governor Vala that was the basis for inviting the BJP to form the government.

Singhvi told the Bench, constituted by CJI Dipak Misra to hear the matter, that the Governor had negated democracy by not calling the alliance commanding majority in Karnataka. “It is the biggest licence to poaching if the Governor gives 15 days to BJP to prove majority as in earlier such cases 48 hours were given by the SC,” Singhvi said.

He said the BJP had 104 MLAs and the Governor invited Yeddyurappa to form government in “unconstitutional manner”, even as JD(S) leader HD Kumaraswamy along with the Congress has 116 MLAs supporting him.

Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, representing the BJP and Yeddyurappa, said no injunction could be issued to the Governor. This is the second time that the Supreme Court is holding an overnight hearing. The first was in July 2015 when the top court held a 90-minute hearing in the middle of the night to hear a last-minute petition against the execution of Yakub Memon for his role in the 1993 Mumbai blasts case.

In the evening when reports surfaced that the Karnataka Governor had invited the BJP to form government in the state, a belligerent Congress moved the SC seeking an urgent hearing on the matter against what it called was an “illegality and unconstitutionality”.

Singhvi sought an urgent hearing either on Wednesday night or before 9 am on Thursday ahead of Yeddyurappa taking oath as the CM. Post-midnight, the SC agreed to hear the Congress petition at 1.45 am. The Congress-JD(S) petition maintained that the BJP may be the single largest party but with 104 MLAs, it did not have the numbers needed to prove majority in the Assembly with an effective strength of 222. The Congress and the JD(S) have argued that their post-poll coalition of 116 MLAs had the majority and, therefore, the first right to form the government, something the Governor "had denied unconstitutionally".

Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala earlier said: “The Governor has denigrated his office, trampled upon the Constitution, abused the law and acted as a BJP puppet. He has no right to be in the chair any longer.” 

“We have already given a letter to the Governor who has conducted an encounter on the Constitution today at the behest of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah. He can't do this. This is illegal,” he said.

The 2006 SC judgment says, “If a political party with the support of other political parties or other MLAs stakes claim to form the government and satisfy the Governor about its majority to form a stable government, the Governor cannot refuse formation of the government and override the majority claim because of his subjective assessment that the majority was cobbled by illegal and unethical means. No such power has been vested with the Governor. Such a power would be against the democratic principles of majority rule. The Governor is not an autocratic political ombudsman. If such a power is vested in the Governor and/or President, the consequences can be horrendous.”

The Congress “used” the March 2017 judgment of the SC to make its point. This judgment upheld the Goa Governor’s order calling the BJP-led post-poll coalition to form the government in the state on grounds that it had the majority numbers. This even as the BJP had just 12 MLAs and the Congress 18.

The Congress urgency in the matter stemmed from its Goa experience where it acted much later to attempt preventing government formation by the BJP. The SC had then rejected the Congress plea and rapped it for loss of time in the matter saying it could have agitated earlier. This explained the urgency in Congress affairs today. 

Late on Wednesday evening, Governor Vala invited BJP’s BS Yeddyurappa to form the government, giving him 15 days to prove majority, even as the Congress cried foul. The oath-taking was scheduled for 9 am in Bengaluru on Thursday.

The decision to invite Yeddyurappa capped a day of intense jockeying for power and allegations by the Congress of bribery and horse-trading against the BJP and PM Modi. A joint delegation of the Congress and JD(S) leaders had earlier called on the Governor, submitted a list of MLAs from both parties and staked claim to form government. They had brought a large number of newly elected members in buses to be paraded before the Governor, who were stopped outside the Raj Bhavan gates. Only the leaders were allowed in. 

The grouping’s CM candidate, HD Kumaraswamy, outgoing CM Siddaramaiah and KPCC president G Parameshwara were among those who met the Governor. Parameshwara said they had submitted a list with signatures of 117 elected members and urged the Governor to invite Kumaraswamy to form a government since they had “a clear majority”. 

State BJP chief BS Yeddyurappa, accompanied by party leaders, too met the Governor and asked to be invited as leader of the single largest party. The BJP has won 104 seats, eight short of simple majority in the 222-member Assembly, with elections in two seats being deferred. All three parties convened their respective legislature party meetings in the morning. While the JD(S) and the BJP elected Kumaraswamy and Yeddyurappa as their party leaders, the Congress resolved to support the JD(S) government headed by Kumaraswamy.

There was some anxiety in both camps as eight of the Congress’ 78 legislators and two of the JD(S)’s 37 could not be reached for signatures. Later, they were reportedly able to get the signatures of seven. An Independent has reportedly decided to go with the BJP.  With PTI inputs

After day of slugfest, battle reaches SC in wee hours

8 pm: News surfaces that Karnataka Governor has invited BJP to form government in state

10 pm: Congress media head Randeep Surjewala confirms Governor has invited BJP despite the saffron party not having majority, says Congress will explore all legal options

10.31 pm: Congress leader Abhishek Singhvi moves joint Cong-JD(S) petition in SC against Governor’s office, seeks urgent hearing

12.25 am: SC Registrar Ravinder Maithani reaches Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra’s house to discuss listing of the Congress petition 

1.17 am: SC agrees to hear the Congress petition at 1.45 am, Singhvi tweets development

1.45 am: Former Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi to represent BJP in hearing

2.06 am: Attorney General KK Venugopal arrives at SC; ASG Maninder Singh joins the team of lawyers for the Centre

2.11 am: SC Bench comprising Justices AK Sikri, SA Bobde and Ashok Bhushan begins hearing in court number-6 

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