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SC upholds disqualification of 17 Karnataka MLAs, but they can contest bypolls

SC upholds disqualification of 17 Karnataka MLAs, but they can contest bypolls

New Delhi/Bengaluru: The Supreme Court on Wednesday allowed the 17 disqualified Congress-JD(S) MLAs to contest the upcoming bypolls to 15 Assembly seats even as it upheld the Speaker's action after their rebellion led to the fall of the Kumaraswamy government and the return of the BJP to power.

As the court struck down the portion of the order of the then Speaker K R Ramesh Kumar by which the legislators were disqualified till the end of the current term of the state Assembly in 2023, all eyes were on the BJP's next move on whether it will give tickets to the Congress-JD(S) rebels.

Deputy Chief Minister C N Ashwathnarayan said the disqualified MLAs will join the BJP on Thursday in Bengaluru.

"They (disqualified legislators) have expressed interest to join BJP and have met our senior leaders. They will join the party," he told reporters.

Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa welcomed the verdict and said it was against the "conspiracy" of Ramesh Kumar and Congress leader Siddaramaiah.

Expressing confidence that the BJP win all the 15 seats, he said the party would decide on giving tickets to the disqualified MLAs.

A three-judge bench of justices N V Ramana, Sanjiv Khanna and Krishna Murari said if elected in the bypolls, the disqualified MLAs can become ministers or hold public office.

The court said its verdict is based on facts and circumstance of the case and does not interfere in the Speaker's power to disqualify members.

The top court gave its verdict on petitions filed by the disqualified MLAs challenging the orders of Kumar to disqualify them.

Kumar disqualified the 17 legislators--14 from the Congress and three from the JD(S)--ahead of the trust vote on July 23.

The then chief minister H D Kumaraswamy resigned after losing the trust vote, which paved the way for the BJP-led government in the state under B S Yediyurappa.

Bypolls to 15 out of the 17 assembly seats which fell vacant following the disqualification of the MLAs are scheduled on December 5 and candidates are required to file their nomination papers between November 11 and November 18.

The disqualified legislators welcomed the verdict.

"The Supreme court allowing us to contest election is important to us. We welcome it.. We are politicians.. This verdict is important to us," A H Vishwanath told reporters.

The disqualified MLAs are: Pratap Gowda Patil, BC Patil, Shivram Hebbar, ST Somashekar, Byrati Basavaraj, Anand Singh, R Roshan Baig, N Munirathna, K Sudhakar and MTB Nagaraj, Shrimant Patil, Ramesh Jarkiholi, Mahesh Kumatalli and R Shankar (all Congress). JD(S) members who faced action are K Gopalaiah, AH Vishwanath and KC Narayana Gowda.

Former Speaker Ramesh Kumar heaved a sigh of relief over the verdict.

"Supreme Court has upheld the disqualification- to that extent, it's a sigh of relief (for me). On the issue of tenure (of disqualification), Supreme Court has not agreed to my interpretation I will speak on that after going through the text of the judgement," Kumar told reporters in Bengaluru.

The BJP had a smooth sailing in winning the trust vote on July 29, as the disqualification of the 17 Congress-JD(S) MLAs by the Speaker reduced the effective strength of the 225-member Assembly to 208.

The magic figure for the simple majority was 105, equivalent to the strength of the BJP, which also commands the support of an Independent.

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