New Delhi, Sep 26 (IANS) Hours after the Election Commission on Thursday told the Supreme Court that it would put off by-elections to the 15 Karnataka Assembly seats till the judges decide on petitions by the disqualified legislators, the Congress hit back saying it appears to have postponed the polls under government instructions.
These polls were scheduled for October 21.
In a series of tweets, Congress General Secretary K.C. Venugopal said, “The decision of the Supreme Court to not interfere with election process is in the spirit of the Constitution. The Supreme Court not only declined to grant stay to the disqualification, it also decided to treat the merit of the matter independently.”
“One wonders at the wisdom of the Election Commission as it appears to have postponed the elections under instructions of the government to favour their agenda,” Venugopal, who is also the Karnataka Congress in-charge, said.
His remarks came after the Commission informed the Supreme Court that it would postpone the bypolls to the Karnataka Assembly seats, which fell vacant after the then Speaker disqualified rebelled legislators.
Senior advocate Rakesh Dwivedi, representing the Election Commission, assured a bench headed by Justice N.V. Ramana that the poll panel will defer the date of election for 15 assembly seats.
The top court then deferred the matter for October 22 and asked all the parties to file their responses in the matter.
The poll panel told the court that the Representation of the People Act mandates the poll panel to fill the casual vacancies of state legislatures through by-elections within six months from the date of occurrence of the vacancy, so it can defer the poll.
Vacancy of these seats was notified on July 25 and the poll panel still has time to fill them, Dwivedi said.
Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala dubbed the Election Commission move as “unprecedented”. Addressing a press conference, Surjewala said, “There were rampant defections in Karnataka mocking at the Constitution and also the anti-defection law enshrined in the Constitution where an elected government with full majority was unseated by a group of defectors, who were rightfully in accordance with the jurisdiction of the Speaker under the Constitution were disqualified.”
He said until today the Supreme Court has not stayed the order of the Speaker, which means the order must be correct.
On Saturday, in a blow to the rebel MLAs, the poll panel announced the dates for bypolls in 15 assembly seats in the southern state on October 21. The by-elections for the 15 seats was neccessiated after 15 rebel MLAs of the ruling Congress and the JD-S government switched their loyalty to the BJP.
The 14-month-old Congress-JD-S government led by H.D. Kumaraswamy collapased after the 15 MLAs resigned as legislators in late July this year.
Significantly, the announcement of the schedule of the by-elections means that the disqualified MLAs will not be able to contest. In a dramatic turn of events, former Karnataka Speaker K.R. Ramesh Kumar disqualified as many as 17 rebel MLAs till the end of the current Assembly term running from 2018 to 2023, a day before the trust vote in the Karnataka Assembly.