Can Floor Test Be Held Without Right To Issue Whip: Randeep Surjewala

New Delhi: 

With the Karnataka Assembly all set for a floor test, the Congress Thursday asked how a confidence motion can be taken up when the power of a political party to issue a whip has been nullified by a court order.

Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said Wednesday’s Supreme Court order raised more questions than it answered and many concerns have arisen over implementing its decision.

The Supreme Court had said in its order that 15 rebel lawmakers of the Congress-JD(S) government in Karnataka “ought not” to be compelled to participate in the proceedings of the ongoing session of the state Assembly.

It said an option should be given to them as to whether or not they wanted to take part in the proceedings.

“Can there be a confidence motion in compliance with the established Parliamentary Procedure and Constitutional Norms in absence of Schedule X of the Constitution of India,” Mr Surjewala asked.

“As a result, the Congress party’s authority to issue and enforce a whip has been effectively nullified. This concern manifested itself in practice today when rebel MLAs took advantage of the court’s order to avoid participating in the floor test,” he said.

The floor test was to be held in the Karnataka Assembly on Thursday. However, the House was adjourned till Friday amid high drama.

Twenty lawmakers did not turn up for the trust vote, including 17 from the ruling coalition, 12 of whom are corralled in a hotel in Mumbai, as the House debated in a surcharged atmosphere.

Mr Surjewala alleged that this is not the first time that the BJP has used money and muscle power to subvert public mandate and Karnataka is the latest state that has fallen victim to the party’s philosophy of “usurping” power.

He said earlier the BJP had done this in Goa, Manipur, Tripura, Uttarakhand, Meghalaya, Bihar and Jammu and Kashmir.

In these states (except Uttarakhand), the majority of the residents had decisively rejected the BJP, but had the “misfortune” of having BJP governments thrust upon them against their will, Mr Surjewala said.

“These were all attempts to usurp power regardless of the public mandate and the Constitution. This is the very opposite of a democratic process,” he said.

The Congress leader said the Supreme Court passed its judgement to balance competing interests and to maintain the constitutional balance, but “because of BJP’s desperation to subvert constitutional norms and to usurp power at all costs, it may end up, inadvertently, achieving the opposite objective”.

Mr Surjewala asked how the Congress party can enforce its rights under Schedule X of the Constitution to issue a whip if some members have been exempted from complying with the constitutionally mandated whip.

“Can the Congress be bound by a decision to which it is not a party? The order of the Supreme Court directly impacts and abrogates the authority of the Congress party to issue a whip in exercise of the powers under Schedule X of the Constitution,” he said.

The inability to issue a whip, by extension, renders the powers of penalty and disqualification under the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution meaningless, he added.

Mr Surjewala said the doctrine of separation of powers separates and prohibits the judiciary, the executive and the legislature from interfering with the workings of one another.

“The fact that separation of powers is part of the basic structure cannot be ignored. This is an essential check and balance in preventing the excesses of one arm of government over the other. Can the judiciary impose its own terms and conditions on how a floor test should be conducted and consequently govern proceedings of the legislature?” he said, while seeking to question the top court’s judgement.

He also asked whether the Supreme Court considered the context and history of these deliberate and designed defections while passing its order.

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