The Supreme Court on Saturday said KG Bopaiah will continue as pro tem speaker ahead of the floor test in the Karnataka assembly scheduled for 4 pm.
The apex court, however, observed that the pro tem speaker could hold a division vote for the floor test (without directing the same), and directed that a live telecast of the proceedings be held to ensure transparency.
"In view of Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta's statement on live telecast of trust vote, nothing more can be done," the Bench said.
The order also mentioned that the secretary of legislative Assembly would record the floor test, and provide live feed to several local channels, which would simultaneously telecast the footage.
This is how the Supreme Court hearing on Saturday played out:
Examining Bopaiah’s Integrity Would Delay Floor Test: SC
- While senior advocates Kapil Sibal and Abhishek Manu Singhvi appeared for the Congress-JD(S) alliance, Attorney General KK Venugopal and Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, along with senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appeared for Bopaiah. Senior advocate Ram Jethmalani was also present in court.
- In response to the Congress-JD(S) argument that appointing Bopaiah as pro-tem Speaker violated the convention on seniority, Justice Bobde pointed out that there have been instances when the most senior person has not been made the pro tem speaker. Sibal remarked that it wasn't just a question of being senior, but it was also about Bopaiah's controversial track record.
- Justice Bobde then said that if the alliance wanted the court to examine Bopaiah's integrity, the floor test would have to be pushed as no order on the Speaker could be passed without hearing him first.
- Sibal also argued in court asking for Bopaiah to not oversee the floor test – that he only administer oath for the MLAs. However, the bench rebutted this, asking who would then oversee the floor test, if not the pro tem speaker? They also questioned whether it was possible for them to direct the Karnataka Governor to appoint someone else as speaker for the floor test, since there was no established convention.
SC Orders Live Telecast of Floor Test
- During the hearing, which commenced at 10:30 am, the bench termed "fair" the suggestion of the Karnataka governor's counsel that the floor test be telecast live.
- "Live broadcast of floor test will be the best possible way to ensure transparency in the proceedings," a bench comprising justices A K Sikri, S A Bobde and Ashok Bhushan said.
- The bench said the secretary of the Legislative Assembly will record the proceedings of the House.
- It said that several local channels will be provided the live feed of the proceedings so that they can also be in a position to telecast simultaneously.
- The bench also made it clear that no other item in the agenda shall be taken up during the trust vote.
Bopaiah Not the Most Senior Member: Congress Files Plea on Friday
On Friday at 7.45 pm Advocate Dev Dutt Kamat had filed the application, which was then listed to be heard by a bench comprising of Justices Arjan Kumar Sikri, Sharad Arvind Bobde and Ashok Bhushan at 10.30 am the next day.
The plea by both Congress and JD(S) has said that except for administering oath and conducting floor test, the pro tem speaker should be restrained from exercising any other power.
The plea alleges that Bopaiah is not the most senior member in the newly-elected House and as per parliamentary convention, only the most senior member (in terms of the number of times he has been elected to the Assembly) can be a pro tem Speaker. As per standard practice, the governor elects the most senior member as the pro tem Speaker.
Congress leader RV Deshpande is the most senior member in the House and has won elections eight out of nine times that he has contested since 1983. Meanwhile, the second-most senior leader in the House is BJP’s Umesh Vishwanath Katti – who has won seven out of eight elections since 1985.
Pointing to the "brazen unconstitutional action" in appointing Bopaiah after the passing of the order earlier on Friday morning, the plea filed by both the Congress and JD(S) said that despite the existing parliamentary convention and practice of appointing the most senior member of the assembly as pro tem speaker, a junior MLA K G Bopaiah (BJP) has been appointed for the position.
Bopaiah Has a Dubious Past: Congress-JD(S) Plea
The application said that Bopaiah has a "dubious and controversial record of passing biased disqualification orders" and had earlier in the day alleged that his appointment was made "with the sole intent of manufacturing a majority out of minority for BS Yeddyurappa".
Both JD(S) and Congress have opposed the governor's move. Congress MP Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who represented the Congress in the Supreme Court on Friday, said: "What the BJP has done is not the right thing. By asking a person who is not the most senior MLA to be a pro tem speaker. But, that is, at the moment, under consideration. Today, the pro tem speaker requirement remains while the SC is two-fold: a) swear himself, sit there and b) to swear in the others and immediately after that, without anything else, to carry out the vote."
Bopaiah, who had earlier served as speaker between 2009-2013, and was also pro tem speaker in 2008, has courted controversy in the past. In a move that drew major flak, he had disqualified 11 rebel BJP MLAs and 5 independents in 2010. This had played a major role in the survival of the BJP government in Karnataka, the first time that they had won in a south Indian state.
He had also earned the ire of the Supreme Court for the decision and the manner in which he acted during the trust vote. The Supreme Court had quashed his decision and said that it did not meet the twin tests of natural justice and fair play.
(With inputs from The News Minute, PTI)