Karnataka High Court rules that H. Vishwanath, who was disqualified as an MLA for his defection to the BJP in 2019, cannot become a Minister

Published : December 01, 2020 17:50 IST

H. Vishwanath, Karnataka MLC. Photo: Sudhakara Jain

The Karnataka High Court ruled on November 30 that H. Vishwanath, one of the 17 MLAs whose opportunistic desertion of the Janata Dal (Secular) led to the downfall of the coalition government of the Indian National Congress and the JD (S) in Karnataka last year, cannot become a Minister. The court based the decision on a technicality as Vishwanath is currently a “nominated” Member of the Legislative Council (MLC) and not an “elected” member.

Vishwanath, who belongs to the Kuruba caste, was a senior leader of the JD (S) when he switched over to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). He was one of the 17 MLAs disqualified by Ramesh Kumar, the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, for defection. Vishwanath and another disqualified MLA did not manage to get reelected in the subsequent byelections that fortified the BJP’s government in the State. He was nominated to the Legislative Council by Governor Vajubhai R. Vala in July as it was the only route by which he could fulfil his ambition to become a Minister. The High Court’s ruling has closed this route for now.

In its ruling, the Division Bench of the court comprising Chief Justice Abhay Sreeniwas Oka and Justice S. Vishwajit Shetty stated that since Vishwanath was disqualified under Articles 164 (1B) and 361(B) of the Constitution of India, his “ disqualification will continue till the expiry of the term of the post of the Karnataka Legislative Assembly held by him earlier. However, before the expiry of the said term, if he gets elected (and not nominated) to the house and legislature, the disqualification under both the above-said provisions will not apply.” The current term of the Legislative Assembly is slated to end in 2023.