The Supreme Court has intervened in the decision by the Karnataka governor to invite the Bharatiya Janata Party to form the next government and asked the BJP to produce the letters it wrote to the governor.
A bench of Justices AK Sikri, SA Bobde and Ashok Bhushan refused to pass any order staying or stopping today’s swearing in ceremony, pointing out that it has to see the letters written by the BJP to the governor on which the BJP was invited to form the government.
A governor can invite a party to form a government if the party produces reasonable evidence or basis to prove that it has the support of the majority of the MLAs.
At the end of an overnight hearing, the Supreme Court bench pointed out that right now, the court did not have before it the letter written by the BJP to the governor claiming support of majority of MLAs. As such, it cannot pass any order one way or the other.
“After hearing the parties, we are of the opinion that it is necessary to peruse the letters dated 15th May, 2018 and 16th May, 2018 submitted by the respondent No.3 to the Governor which find a mention in the communication dated 16 th May, 2018 of the Hon’ble Governor. We request the learned Attorney General and/or respondent letters on the next date of hearing,” it ordered at 5 AM today, after hearing the petition filed by the Congress from 2 AM onwards.
The letters written by the BJP to the governor claiming support of majority of the MLAs have to be produced by 10:30 AM tomorrow.
The move assumes significance as the governor is supposed to invite any party or alliance that enjoys the support of the majority of MLAs. The support of MLAs is usually represented by signed letters from them.
The Congress Party and the JDS have already submitted letters from 117 MLAs, leaving only 105 MLAs remaining in the assembly.
Congress counsel Abhishek Singhvi asked how the BJP could claim the support of 111 MLAs when 117 have already given their written support to the Congress-JD(S) combine. The total number of MLAs is 222.
The Central government counsel argued against the overnight hearing, and said there was no need to hold an emergency hearing. The government also said the swearing in could be postponed.
Meanwhile, state BJP leader BS Yeddyurappa will swear in as the chief minister at 9:30 AM today.
The Supreme Court said it was not staying the swearing in, but also added that the swearing in “shall be subject to further orders” in the case.
“This Court is not passing any order staying the oath taking ceremony of respondent No.3. In case, he is given oath in the meantime, that shall be subject to further orders of this Court and final outcome of the writ petition,” the bench said.
The move can be seen as a partial victory for petitioners the Indian National Congress and the JDS as they managed to get the judiciary intervene in the matter despite the courts being closed for the day.
The confirmation that the BJP will be invited to form the government came at round 10 PM yesterday. This ensured that the Congress Party and JDS could not challenge the decision as the courts were already closed.
However, breaking from convention, the Supreme Court decided to hold a hearing at 2 AM today.
“This Bench was specially convened at odd hours to hear the matter as, on the basis of the said letter, respondent No.3 has decided to take oath at 9.30 a.m. on 17 th May, 2018,” it noted.