New Delhi/Bengaluru: Politics has taken an intriguing turn in Karnataka after the Supreme Court today upheld an order by former Karnataka Assembly Speaker K R Ramesh Kumar disqualifying 17 Karnataka MLAs in July.
In the very same breath, the court struck down the brutal ruling of the Speaker prohibiting the disqualified MLAs from standing for elections till the end of the term of the State Assembly in 2023.
It was either a win or a loss for both the BJP and the Opposition Congress-JDS combine, depending on how the verdict was interpreted.
The BJP claimed victory as the rebel MLAs who brought down the HD Kumaraswamy government can contest the upcoming bypolls on December 5, the Congress-JDS said the ruling clearly showed how the rebel MLAs were lured by the BJP as part of 'Operation Kamal'.
But the court tweaked at the ears of former speaker Ramesh Kumar who disqualified the MLAs.
The three-judge bench of justices N V Ramana, Sanjiv Khanna and Krishna Murari said: " The speaker in the exercise of powers does not have the power to indicate the period for which a person is barred from contesting an election."
"We uphold the order of speaker of disqualification. But strike out the period of disqualification," it added.
Looking closely at the Speaker's action, the court said there is a growing trend of Speakers acting against the "constitutional duty of being neutral" in addition to political parties indulging in horse-trading and corrupt practices due to which citizens are being denied stable governments. Speaker Ramesh Kumar is a Congress leader.
The Speaker, being a neutral person, is expected to act independently while conducting the proceedings of the House or adjudication petitions, it said in the case filed by the rebel MLAs.
The constitutional responsibility endowed upon the Speaker has to be scrupulously followed and his political affiliations cannot come in the way of adjudication, the apex court said, adding, there is a need to consider strengthening certain aspects so that such "undemocratic practices" are discouraged and checked.
Bypolls to 15 out of 17 Karnataka assembly seats, which became vacant following the disqualification of MLAs, are scheduled on December 5 and results would be declared on Dec 9.
The Election Commission has not announced bypolls in Maski and Rajarajeshwari segments as petitions are pending in Karnataka High Court relating to the 2018 assembly election in the state.
Despite a favourable ruling suspense continues on the fate of disqualified MLAs. It is not clear if they will get a ticket in the upcoming bypolls even as a rebellion is mounting within the BJP against turncoats.