Chakshu Roy & Abhijit Banare explain rules for floor test, and selection and role of pro tem Speaker
Who will be overseeing the floor test in Karnataka?
Pro tem Speaker. As per the Supreme Court order on May 18, “Since the elected Members of Legislative Assembly are yet to take oath as specified in Schedule III of the Constitution and the Speaker is also yet to be elected, we are of the view that the following procedure be followed for conducting the Floor Test: A). Pro-tem Speaker shall be appointed for the aforesaid purpose immediately.”
Who is a pro tem Speaker and how is he appointed?
As per Article 180(1) of the Constitution, when the posts of Speaker and Deputy Speaker are vacant, the Governor can appoint any member of the House to act as Speaker. This office is colloquially referred to as the pro tem Speaker. For example, after the 2014 general elections, the President appointed Kamal Nath as Speaker before the formal election of a Speaker of Lok Sabha could take place. Along with him, he also appointed Arjun Charan Sethi, P A Sangma and Biren Singh Engti who could administer the oath of office to the Members of the Lok Sabha. In 2009, Manikrao Gavit was appointed as pro tem Speaker and four other MPs were appointed to administer the oath to MPs. Gavit and Nath were the most tenured MPs of Lok Sabha and were not in contention for election as Speaker.
Who will administer the oath of office to Karnataka MLAs?
Article 188 states that before taking their seat in the house, the legislators will be administered the oath of office by the Governor or any person appointed by him. Reports in the media that have reproduced the Governor’s order suggest that BJP legislator K G Bopaiah has been nominated to administer the oath to other MLAs. However, there is no publicly available information appointing Bopaiah as the Speaker under Article 180(1) as well.
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What is the process of undertaking the floor test?
The Supreme Court order does not specify the manner in which the pro tem Speaker will execute the floor test. So the pro tem Speaker can determine the manner in which the floor test will be conducted. As per the Karnataka Assembly’s rules of procedure, under rule 340, matters requiring the decision of the House shall be decided by means of a question put by the Speaker on the motion made by a member. Further, under Rule 346, voting on a motion is done through a voice vote by members voicing either ‘Aye’ or ‘No’. The Speaker then determines the outcome based on the voice vote. If the decision of the Speaker is challenged, he shall clear the lobbies, close the doors of the House and once again put the motion to a voice vote.
If the Speaker’s decision is challenged again, he shall ask the MLAs to rise in their respective seats in support or against the motion. The numbers of MLAs standing will be counted to decide on the outcome of the motion. While counting the numbers, the names of legislators will not be recorded. As per the rules, the seating of the members will be decided by the Speaker. In the past, the Supreme Court has ordered the video recording of proceedings and appointed observers when floor tests have been conducted. No such orders have been made in this case. For purposes of execution for the upcoming floor test, all the above responsibilities of the Speaker will be discharged by the pro tem Speaker.
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How many votes are required to win the floor test?
To win the floor test, a majority of the members present and voting will have to vote in favour of the motion. Since the Election Commission has deferred election for two seats on May 28, the recent elections were held for 222 seats. H D Kumaraswamy is the only legislator to have won two constituencies; his vote will be counted only once. Assuming that no one is absent, there will be 220 MLAs in the House to participate in the floor test — while the pro tem Speaker, who is also an MLA, will preside over the proceedings. B S Yeddyurappa will require 111 votes to go past the halfway mark. As per Article 189(1) of the Constitution, the Speaker or Chairman or person acting as such shall exercise a casting of the vote in case of an equality of votes. Therefore, unless there is an equal number of votes on both sides, the pro tem Speaker will not be able to cast his vote.
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Is this a composite floor test or a simple floor test?
When there is more than one candidate claiming a majority, the MLAs vote for one candidate as their choice. For example, the Supreme Court ordered a composite floor test in Jharkhand in 2005 when both Shibu Soren and Arjun Munda claimed to have a majority. This was similar in Uttar Pradesh in 1998 when the majority contest was between Kalyan Singh and Jagdambika Pal. In Karnataka, there will be a simple floor test where the MLAs will vote either in favour or against Yeddyurappa. In case Yeddyurappa fails the floor test, the next MLA claiming majority will have to go through the process of a floor test again.