NEW DELHI: The petition challenging BJP leader BS Yeddyurappa’s swearing in as Karnataka Chief Minister is being heard in the Supreme Court after the Congress, which has called the governor’s decision an “encounter of the Constitution”, filed an urgent petition in the Supreme Court shortly before midnight.
At about 1 a.m, Chief Justice Dipak Misra asked a three-judge bench of Justices AK Sikri, A Bobde and Ashok Bhushan to hear the case. The hearing began at an hour later.
This is the second time that the Supreme Court is holding an overnight hearing. The first was in July 2015 when the top court held a 90-minute hearing in the middle of the night to hear a last-minute petition against the execution of Yakub Memon for his role in the 1993 Mumbai blasts case.
Arguments underway in Supreme Court. Live updates here
Abhishek Singhvi, who is leading the Congress’s legal team, thanked the top court. “Shows justice never sleeps and accessibility is 24X7 where merits so demand. Which apex court in world allows such accessibility,” Mr Singhvi tweeted before entering the court.
Mr Singhvi had kept the petition ready in case the governor did invite Mr Yeddyurappa, the leader of the single largest party and overlooked the claims of the Congress-Janata Dal Secular alliance which had the numbers.
The BJP has 105 lawmakers, including an Independent, in the 222-seat assembly, but is seven short of majority. The Congress, which got 78 seats, has partnered with the Janata Dal Secular and together they have 116 seats, four more than the halfway mark.
“The governor can’t negate democracy… The other side has 104 members and this side, 116…. It is elementary common sense on numbers (which one is greater),” Abhishek Singhvi, who had filed the request on behalf of the Congress-JDS combine, told the bench comprising Justices AK Sikri, A Bobde and Ashok Bhushan.
The government was represented by the government’s top law officer KK Venugopal and his deputies Tushar Mehta and Maninder Singh. Mr Venugopal’s predecessor, Mukul Rohatgi said he was appearing for some BJP legislators. Before entering the Supreme Court, Mr Rohatgi rubbished criticism that the BJP did not have the numbers. “How do you know BJP doesn’t not have the numbers,” Mr Rohatgi shot back, pointing that a party’s strength could only be tested on the floor of the assembly, not in Raj Bhavan or elsewhere.
In his invitation to BS Yeddyurappa, the governor had given him 15 days to prove majority on the floor of the house. Mr Yeddyurappa will take oath as Karnataka chief minister at 9 am today. His cabinet will be sworn in only after he is able to prove his majority.
Congress leaders see the late evening invitation for the swearing-in ceremony just 12 hours later as a tactic to prevent them from approaching the court against Raj Bhavan’s decision.
Mr Singhvi tweeted the short gap between the invitation and the swearing-in ceremony validated the urgency. If the Supreme Court registry accepts the request on the basis of the petition, “I will appear and argue tonight”.
The BJP contends that it should be allowed to form the government as it is the single largest party. Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad defended the governor’s decision, saying it was the BJP which had been given the mandate by the people who gave the party 104 clear seats though, he added, it was still short of the 112-majority mark by a few seats.
Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala has lashed out at the governor, saying he had shamed his office”.
“Amit Shah and BJP today sanctioned an encounter of the constitution and the law. Governor has subjugated the law and shamed the office of governor and I don’t think such a person has the right to continue,” Mr Surjewala said.
Back in Bengaluru, the Congress has actioned its backup plan to block Yeddyurappa from poaching its lawmakers and sequestered them in a Eagleton Golf Resort 60 km from state capital Bengaluru.
COMMENTSJanata Dal Secular leader HD Kumaraswamy said by giving 15 days to prove majority, “the governor is encouraging horse-trading by BJP leaders, this is unconstitutional. We will discuss the future plan.”
Mr Prasad responded, “The party that blew up the Constitution to shambles is teaching us the constitution, the party that imposed President Rule the most number of times is giving us lessons.”