Mr Bopiah’s actions as Speaker in 2011 had earned a sharp rebuke from the Supreme Court.
In response to petitions by the Congress and the Janata Dal (Secular), the Supreme Court made history when, hours after midnight on Wednesday, it sat to adjudicate on the action of Karnataka’s governor in dealing with a hung Assembly after an election, but its ruling has failed to nip the constitutional mischief in the bud. The ruling was like the curate’s egg, good only in parts.
The subsequent action of governor Vajubhai Vala on Friday, to appoint BJP MLA K.G. Bopiah as pro-tem Speaker to conduct the confidence vote on Saturday, was also unprepossessing. The Congress, along with the JD(S), seemed ready on Friday to move another urgent petition in the court challenging Mr Bopiah’s appointment in violation of the settled convention that the seniormost MLA in the House is made pro-tem Speaker to conduct proceedings to test a government’s majority.
Mr Bopiah’s actions as Speaker in 2011 had earned a sharp rebuke from the Supreme Court. The then Speaker had disqualified a block of rebel BJP MLAs when they rose against incumbent chief minister B.S, Yeddyurappa, once again in the eye of the storm, for being corrupt.
Even as demands for the governor’s resignation began to be voiced on Friday, Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh wrote to President Ram Nath Kovind seeking Mr Vala’s resignation from his high constitutional office.
In its ruling in the early hours on Thursday, the Supreme Court permitted the action of the governor in letting Mr Yeddyurappa being sworn in, but on Friday morning it drastically cut down the time given to him in which to prove his majority. From the 15 days given by the governor (against the seven the BJP leader had sought), the time was cut down to 48 hours from the time of the hearing.
However, the court’s ruling, which for now upheld the notion that the single largest party may be called to have the first try in forming government even when it can’t show prima facie where its numbers would come from, rather than a coalition of parties whose joint strength of MLAs easily crosses the halfway mark, has set off demands in Goa, Bihar and Manipur — states where the single largest party didn’t form governments, and calls on the respective governors to remove the present governments and visit the process of government-making afresh.
This is an extraordinary development, and would ordinarily be dismissed out of hand. But in light of the Supreme Court’s early morning ruling in the Karnataka case, and given the lack of codification of coherent principles for government-making after an election, politics of a new kind has been urged by many parties, making a mockery of our understanding of constitutional principles and practices. The first port of call for India is the Supreme Court when it deals with Karnataka’s pro tem Speaker case.