The Karnataka High Court chief justice and another judge Monday differed on the disqualification of 11 rebel legislators of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and decided to refer the issue to another judge.
Chief Justice J.S. Khehar and Judge N. Kumar, in view of their differing view on the rebel BJP legislators issue, also decided to refer to another bench the plea of five Independent lawmakers against their disqualification.
A single judge will now decide on the disqualification of the 11 BJP legislators Oct 20 while a two-judge bench will take up the Independent legislators issue Nov 2.
Chief Justice Khehar upheld the Oct 11 decision of Karnataka Speaker K.G. Bopaiah to disqualify the 11 BJP legislators for expressing lack of confidence in Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa.
However, Justice Kumar quashed Bopaiahs decision.
Initially 15 BJP legislators and five Independents, four of whom were ministers, were among the assembly members who had rebelled against Yeddyurappas leadrship Oct 6 and submitted a letter to Governor H.R. Bhardwaj expressing lack of confidence in the chief minister.
Four BJP rebel legislators later returned to the party fold while Yeddyurappa sacked rhe four Independents from his ministry.
Following the revolt, Bhardwaj asked Yeddyurappa to prove his majority in the assembly by Oct 12.
Yeddyurappa decided to do so Oct 11 and just before the assembly session was to start, Speaker Bopaiah disqualified the 11 BJP lawmakers and the five Independent legislators from the assembly.
Chief Justice Khehar and Justice Kumar in their ruling Monday on the plea of the 11 rebel BJP legislators agreed on three of the four issues raised before them, but differed on the most important one – disqualification.
The two judges agreed the speaker had followed the rules, there was no violation of natural justice (chance given to an aggrieved party to present its case) and there was no mala-fide (an act undertaken in bad faith) intention in the speakers decision.
However, they differed on whether the action of the 11 BJP legislators fell under the provisions of the anti-defection law.
The chief justice concluded that it did, while Justice Kumar held it did not.
The law details the actions and circumstances under which a legislator, belonging to a political party or an Independent, can be expelled from the membership of the house.
In view of their differing stand on the issue, the two judges decided that the plea of the five Independents should also be heard by other judges. The Independent lawmakers plea will now be heard Nov 2.
Chief Justice Khehar will name the judges to hear the two appeals separately.
Yeddyurappa won the trust motion by voice vote Oct 11 amid bedlam in the assembly as the rebel legislators were not allowed to enter the house.
Holding that Yeddyurappa had not won the confidence vote in a proper manner, Bhardwaj first recommended imposition of presidents rule in the state but later gave the chief minister another chance to prove his majority Oct 14.
Yeddyurappa won the second trust vote with 106 votes against the oppositions 100 votes, with disqualified members not being allowed to take part in the proceedings.
Chief Justice Khehar and Justice Kumar ruled that the outcome of the Oct 14 vote will be subject to their decision on the appeals by legislators against their disqualification.
Yeddyurappa took over as the BJPs first chief minister in Karnataka and south India in May 2008. He has had a rough ride since then and he was almost brought down October-November last year by the rich iron ore mine owners and ministers in his cabinet, G. Janardhana Reddy and his elder brother G. Karunakara Reddy.
Their rebellion was papered over by the intervention of the central BJP leadership, notably Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj, who contested the Lok Sabha polls from Bellary, the home turf of the two Reddy brothers.