Indian court upholds disqualification of 17 politicians

November 13, 2019

India's Supreme Court Wednesday upheld the disqualification of 17 lawmakers belonging to the Congress party and Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) from southwestern state Karnataka, officials said. The top court however, rejected former Karnataka assembly speaker Ramesh Kumar's decision to bar the disqualified lawmakers from contesting polls until 2023 and allowed them to contest in the upcoming by-polls for the vacant seats in the state next month."In a parliamentary democracy, morality is equally binding on the government and the opposition," the Supreme Court said while upholding then Speaker's decision. "Speaker couldn't have barred the MLAs (lawmakers) for any term as Speaker doesn't have the powers."

The 17 lawmakers, 14 from Congress and three from JD-S, were disqualified in July under the anti-defection law by the Speaker, who even ordered that they cannot contest elections until the term of the ongoing Assembly ends in 2023. The lawmakers are believed to have been pressured to resign by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), after which they attempted to contest elections again - even though their resignation prevented the Congress party from making the government in Karnataka. The Congress party has hailed the court's decision as a step in favor of Indian democracy, as well as a step towards anti-defection. The resignation and subsequent disqualification of the lawmakers resulted in ending the Congress-JD-S coalition government in the state and paved way for Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to form a local government.

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