In an order dated February 14, 2011, the Karnataka High Court in the MLA Defection case (D. Sudhakar v. D.N. Jeevaraju) had held that when an independent member of a legislative assembly becomes a minister in a government formed by the single largest political party, he loses his independent character and becomes liable to disqualification on the ground of defection. A day later, in this post it was asked: “Does this holding discredit the resolve of independent members generally, by assuming that they will not “retain their independent…character” or “stick to their own ideologies” when they become ministers?”
On May 13, 2011, the Supreme Court (Justices Altamas Kabir and Cyriac Joseph) disagreed with the holding of the Karnataka High Court (paragraph 2):
“We are unable to accept the submission made on behalf of the respondents that by extending support to Shri Yeddyurappa in the formation of the Bharatiya Janata Party led Government the appellants had sacrificed their independent identity. The fact that the said appellants also joined the Council of Ministers does not also point to such an eventuality. It is no doubt true that an independent legislator does not always have to express his intention to join a party in writing, but the mere extension of support to Shri Yeddyurappa and the decision to join his Cabinet, in our view, was not sufficient to indicate that the appellants had decided to join and/or had actually joined the Bharatiya Janata Party, particularly on account of the subsequent conduct in which they were treated differently from the Members of the Bharatiya Janata Party”. (emphasis supplied)
A detailed judgment is to follow.