Supreme Court orders floor test for Yeddyurappa government in Karnataka tomorrow

Within hours of BS Yeddyurappa being sworn in as chief minister, Supreme Court today asked the Yeddyurappa government to prove majority in the Karnataka Assembly at 4 pm tomorrow.

“Let the House decide and the best course would be floor test,” the apex court said.

There will be no secret ballot. A pro-tem speaker will be appointed by the House, who will conduct the floor test as per the rules of the House.

All members will be sworn in before that. The CM will not take policy decisions before the floor test. This was the sum and substance of the order passed by a three-judge bench led by Justice AK Sikri on Friday.

At the outset the court saw the letters sent by the CM to the Governor staking claim to form the government. The court said that from that it was clear that the single largest party had claimed support of “others” to form a government.

In such a situation the court thought it better to order an immediate floor test rather than deal with the legality of the Governor’s decision. The court will deal with this and lay down the law on this later in July.

For now, the court said that it can’t compromise on rule of law and refused to grant more time to the CM to prove his majority.

Appearing for the BJP, Former Attorney General for India Mukul Rohatgi had sought reasonable time for the floor test, but the court rejected the demand.

The court also stayed the nomination of an anglo-Indian member before the floor test.

The court also took a undertaking from Rohatgi that the CM Yeddyurappa will not take any policy decisions before the floor test.

Rohtagi sought more time on the ground that the MLAs have to be rounded up and others contacted. He also accused the Congress of locking up its MLAs. But the Congress resisted any extension.

The Congress and the JD(s) had approached the court after the Governor had asked Yeddyurappa to form the government.

In an unprecedented midnight intervention, the court had sought the letters staking support and suggested a quicker floor test as a way out of the imbroglio.

Debating the numbers Rohatgi said that the mandate in the state was for a change. The ruling party was thrown out, he said. There was then an unholy alliance between the Congress and the JD(S).

He said that there was no need for the single largest party to in the current atmosphere of fear and apprehension to give out the names of those supporting the single largest party.

He said that faced with two facts jostling with each other, the Governor took a decision to invite Yeddyurappa as he was satisfied that he could provide a stable government.

“These claims cannot be verified by the Governor. The real place is the floor.”

The BJP also claimed that the Congress never sent its list to the Governor, only a letter of support.

The Congress on the other hand claimed that the Governor had no discretion and the court cannot allow him to countenance constitutional immorality in calling a party with no numbers.

Meanwhile, the apex court turned down request for secret ballot and in-camera floor test.

Earlier, Supreme Court wanted to know on what basis the Governor asks a party to provide a stable government. BJP’s lawyer Mukul Rohatgi submitted that at this stage he does not want to say anything more.

The Karnataka governor Vajubhai Vala had on Wednesday invited the BJP, the single largest party in the state, to form a government, overlooking the claims of the Congress and JD(s) combine prompting the latter to move the top court in the middle of the night.

A three-judge bench, comprising Justices AK Sikri, SA Bobde and Ashok Bhushan, had refused the Congress plea to defer the swearing in scheduled for earlier on Thursday to examine the claims and counterclaims of the two parties.

Singhvi had claimed on Wednesday that the JD (S)-Congress combine had the numbers and hence there was no way that the BJP could have had more than 104 members in the 224-member Assembly without falling foul of the anti-defection law. “The anti-defection law does not apply before members are sworn in,” the AG told the bench which dubbed the suggestion as “preposterous”. “That would be an open invitation to horse-trading,” the bench had said.

At Singhvi’s insistence, the bench demanded the May 15 and 16 letters written by the BJP to the Governor staking claim to form a government and his formal response. No party had these letters, which hold the key to power in the state, during the unprecedented midnight hearing.