As the Supreme Court commences the hearing over a petition filed by the Congress and the Janata Dal (Secular) over the Governor of Karnataka’s decision to grant the Bharatiya Janata Party’s BS Yeddyurappa to form a government in Karnataka with 104 seats in hand, both sides have called on their big guns. With Senior Supreme Court Advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi representing the Congress-JD(S) alliance, Former Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi has been called upon to represent the BJP MLAs and AG Tushar Mehta is standing in for the government.
With Justices AK Sikri, Ashok Bhushan and Sharad Arvind Bobde hearing the case, arguments over the petition began at 2:02 am.
Congressman Abhishek Manu Singhvi begins his argument by saying, “Yesterday, Congress legislature party passed a resolution supporting JD(S). HD Kumaraswamy submitted 37 MLAs signatures to the Governor, supporting Congress. BJP has just 104 MLAs in support and the Governor has invited BJP leader BS Yeddyurappa to form the government. It is completely unconstitutional.”
He goes on to say that the clear rule is that the person with an absolute majority is invited to form a government in a state to which the Supreme Court asks, “Where is this rule from?”
Singhvi then replies, “This is the convention citing the Sarkaria Commission report that asserts that if there is no clear majority, the Supreme Court bench order in Rameshwar case is the sequence of approach.”
“We are challenging the act of the governor to not call me to form Government. We are not saying we can form the government or not. The issue is of the person who has been called,” says Singhvi. He also claims that the Governor granting the BJP 15 days to clear a floor test is a “license for poaching”. Putting his illustrious legal expertise to use, Singhvi says, “This is a negation of democracy to not call me,” adding, “We do not have the letter from Yeddyurappa to the governor. We have grounds to believe he asked for 7 but got 15 days.”
He then goes ahead to say that it is arithmetically not possible for BJP to prove majority, and asks the Supreme Court to impose a stay on Yeddyurappa’s swearing-in ceremony scheduled for May 17, 2018. “Let there be no new government and let there be a status quo,” says Singhvi. The bench then says that if it imposes a stay, there will be a vacuum in the state to which Singhvi replies by saying that a caretaker Chief Minister (Siddaramaiah) is constitutionally in place to take care of the state government till May 28.
Singhvi then cites examples of states where the largest majority may it be pre-poll or post-poll alliance, were given the go-ahead to form the government. One of such examples is Delhi and Jammu&Kashmir. “There is a precedent where the court has preponed the floor test from seven days to 48 hours, I have given six instances where the single largest party did not form the government, out of which in one case your Lordships have upheld that government,” says Singhvi.
He then goes on to argue the extent of the immunity of the Governor citing Article 361 which says that the Governor is not entirely immune from judicial review and that his discretionary powers can be challenged in the Supreme Court. “The Supreme Court is the sentinel to protect rule of law and parliamentary democracy,” says Singhvi. He then asks the bench why the governor’s decision cannot be stayed adding that the swearing-in can be conducted the day after tomorrow since it is a purely executive action and saying that the apex court cannot impose a stay on the swearing in is a myth.
The bench then says that the letter Congress claims was sent by the Governor to Yeddyurappa is not part of the petition copy after which Singhvi hands over the letter to the bench. “Governor’s letter mentions Yeddyurappa letter that is claiming a majority of the BJP,” he says. The bench then asserts that it does not know whose support Yeddyurappa is claiming to which Singhvi says that since it is not known whose support Yeddyurappa claims to have, the swearing-in should be delayed. Justice Bobde then asks Singhvi if the bench can issue a stay on the basis of speculation. The bench then asks, “Are you saying on the basis of a reasonable suspicion?”
“If your lordships conscience is satisfied, defer the swearing in. That is not even staying the Governor’s actions”, said Senior Supreme Court Advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi representing the Congress-JD(S) alliance as he concluded his arguments, giving way to Former Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi to commence his defense as per his claims, of two JD(U) MLAs and not BJP’s Chief Ministerial candidate Yeddyurappa.