Nominated MLC Vishwanath can't be minister after disqualification from Assembly, rules Supreme Court
BJP MLC AH Vishwanath’s appeal in the Supreme Court against the Karnataka High Court order disqualifying him from holding office of a minister, was dismissed on Thursday.
Bengaluru: BJP MLC AH Vishwanath's appeal in the Supreme Court against the Karnataka High Court order disqualifying him from holding office of a minister, was dismissed on Thursday.
A branch headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde told his counsel and senior advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan that the MLC was not eligible for appointment as minister. He was among 17 Congress and JD(S) legislators who resigned in 2019 to bring down the JDS-Congress coalition government and help BJP come to power.
All the rebel MLAs were disqualified by the Speaker under the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution. The apex court had in November, 2019 upheld the Speaker's order but said the disqualified MLAs could contest by-polls and their disqualification would not last till the term of the Assembly.
After he lost bypolls, BJP nominated him in July, 2020 to Legislative Council in a move to induct him into the B S Yeddyurappa government. But the Karnataka High Court held that his disqualification as MLA under the anti-defection law continued and hence he could not be appointed as a minister, which he later appealed to SC. At the time when Vishwanath stated that he would appeal before SC, BJP leaders in the State extended support.
Arguing for Vishwanath, Sankaranarayanan contended that his disqualification under Article 164 (1)(b) of the Constitution was restricted to the term of the office for which he was disqualified. The bench, however, said the disqualification would subsist if he was simply nominated to the Legislative Council and did not get re-elected.
"If you come back elected, it is fine. If you are simply nominated, it cannot be. The HC is right and its order is well-reasoned," the bench, also comprising Justices A S Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian, said. The counsel tried to contend that the HC had acted on a PIL but the top court said the petitioner could not be granted any relief on technical grounds.
The High Court of Karnataka barred Vishwanath from becoming a minister as he is a nominated member of the Council. Vishwanath incurred disqualification under Article 164 (1) (b) and Article 361 (B) of the Constitution, till the expiry of the term of the Legislative Council in May 2021. However, other two MLCs R Shankar, and M T B Nagaraj got reprieve as the court observed that their disqualification did not subsist as they were elected to the Legislative Council. All of them were disqualified by the Assembly Speaker and the Supreme Court upheld the order. Vishwanath said that his name was in the list of candidates contesting the Council elections, but was dropped at the last minute.