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The Supreme Court Friday restored the membership of 16 disqualified Karnataka legislators, a development that could threaten continuation of B.S. Yeddyurappa as chief minister.

The 16 lawmakers, 11 of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and five Independents, were disqualified Oct 11, hours before Yeddyurappa was to seek confidence vote in the assembly following their withdrawal of support to him.

Most of the 16 lawmakers, who were in New Delhi for the keenly awaited verdict, told reporters that they would meet late Friday to decide their future course of action. They did not give a direct reply to whether they would again seek removal of Yeddyurappa.

“We will discuss and take a decision,” Belur Gopalakrishna, a legislator from Sagar in Yeddyurappa’s home district of Shimoga, about 280 km from Bangalore, told reporters.

The legislators were disqualified by Speaker K.G. Bopaiah Oct 10, 2010, a day before the trial of strength of the government Oct 11.

The apex court bench of Justice Altamas Kabir and Justice Cyriac Joseph said in their judgment: “It is hard to explain the speaker’s decision (disqualifying the 16 legislators) and he has acted only on extraneous considerations.”

Speaking for the bench, Justice Kabir said that the speaker has acted in a partisan way and ignored the constitution.

Justice Kabir said: “Having considered the very questions raised in the petition (challenging disqualification), the proceedings of the speaker did not meet the twin test of natural justice inherent to fair trial and the constitutional provisions.”

In an observation of far reaching consequences on the five independent MLAs, the judgment said that “merely because five MLAs had joined the government does not mean that they lose their independent identity and cannot be treated differently.”

It was argued by those supporting their disqualification that once independent MLAs join the government, and implement its policies and decisions, they lose their independent status.

The disqualification of the BJP lawmakers and that of the independent MLAs were upheld by the Karnataka High Court by its Feb 14, 2011 verdict.

The disqualified BJP legislators were Balachandra Jarkiholi, Belur Gopalakrishna, Anand Asnotikar, Sarvabowma Bagali, V. Nagaraju, Raje Kage, Y. Sampangi, Nanjundaswamy, S.K. Bellubbi, H.S. Shankara Lingegowda and Shivanagouda Naik.

The five independents were Gulihatti Shekar, D. Sudhakar, P.M. Narendra Swamy, Venkataramanappa and Shivaraj Tangadagi.

The speaker carried out disqualification despite being told by Governor H.R. Bhardwaj not to disturb the strength of the state assembly by any punitive action prior to vote on confidence motion Oct 11, 2010.

Excluding the 11 party lawmakers whose membership was restored Friday, the BJP has 109 members in the 225-member assembly (including one nominated) and enjoys the support of one independent.

The Congress has 71 members and the Janata Dal-Secular 26. One seat is vacant.

The victorious 16 lawmakers now hold the key to the fate of Yeddyurapa, who is already facing increasing dissidence over his continuation in view of various charges of corruption and illegal land deals against him.

In Bangalore, BJP spokesperson and special representative in New Delhi V. Dhananjaya Kumar said there was no threat to Yeddyuappa as the 11 legislators who won their case remained BJP members.

After the apex court verdict Yeddyurappa held a meeting with ministers and legislators supporting him to discuss the impact and decide on steps to win over as many as 16 lawmakers to supporting him.


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