A 142-year-old organisation is the latest group to enter the mess that is the Karnataka election result. Three days after the state polls resulted in a hung assembly, The All-India Anglo-Indian Association filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court requesting that no Anglo Indian member should be nominated for the Karnataka assembly until the floor test at the House was conducted, citing concerns that such an appointment may be used for political gains.
"Over the last few decades, our seats have been politicised," said Barry O'Brien, President-in-chief of the organisation that was established in 1876 and has 62 branches in India. "The voice of the people (of the community) is not heard, some people are just thrust on us just because they serve a political party's interest."
The apex court has accepted the petition, filed by the Anglo-Indian association's Bengaluru branch's vice president Clive Michael Van Buerle. The court ordered a floor test to be held on Saturday at 4 pm. The Anglo-Indian member of the legislative assembly will be nominated only after the BS Yeddyurappa-led Bharatiya Janata Party government is able to prove their majority.
"We would have the same stance in any state," said O'Brien. "We are equally friendly with all political parties."
"Over the last few decades, our seats have been politicised."Barry O'Brien, President-in-chief of The All-India Anglo-Indian Association
The Anglo-Indian community's decision to move the Supreme Court is an extreme reaction to years of manipulation by political parties. There is no proper procedure to nominate such a member, and political parties often use this opportunity to pick a person close to the ruling government instead of a person who would serve the Anglo Indian community, said O'Brien.
"They don't care who they are nominating, parties use this for their own selfish reason," he said. "The person they nominate should be known in the community who can represent us."
Under Article 333 of the Constitution of India, the Governor of a state can nominate a member of the Anglo-Indian community in the state legislative assembly. Currently, this takes place in states which have a significant Anglo-Indian population — like Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal — among others. It is usually done to adequately represent the Anglo-Indian community in a state assembly. Two such nominations are also allowed at the Lok Sabha level, chosen by the President of India.
The All-India Anglo-Indian Association's decision to file a writ petition on Friday was a last-ditch attempt. The organisation had already written a letter to the Karnataka governor on Wednesday, May 16, requesting him to not nominate any one until the floor test took place at the state assembly. The community had decided to send the letter to the governor after some members were believed to have been approached by political party representatives to send their resumes for the position. Though it is unclear who was approached, it sent alarm bells ringing through the agitated community following which O'Brien shot off a letter to the Karnataka Governor Vajubhai Vala voicing their concern.
"Sir, we implore you to protect our constitutional rights by not allowing any political party or group to use this nomination to seek political advantage for its own gain or benefit," O'Brien wrote in the letter. "In the current situation that has evolved in the state, if a person is nominated to this seat before the 'floor test' or 'vote of confidence' is carried out to prove the majority in favour of any political party or group, it would be highly unethical and unconstitutional, and cause great damage to the democratic process as well the rights of a minority community."
Shri Vajubhai Vala
The State of Karnataka
Subject: Nominated Anglo-Indian seat in the Legislative Assembly
We send you our greetings and best wishes!
I write to you in my capacity as the elected President-in-Chief of The All-India Anglo-Indian Association, the oldest and largest organisation of the community, since 1876, with 62 branches spread across the country. In Karnataka we have active branches in Bengaluru (two branches), Mysore, Hubli and Kolar Gold Fields.
Sir, Article 333 of the Constitution of India empowers the Governor of a state to nominate a member of the Anglo-Indian community to the State Legislative Assembly.
Sir, we implore you to protect our constitutional rights by not allowing any political party or group to use this nomination to seek political advantage for its own gain or benefit. In the current situation that has evolved in the state, if a person is nominated to this seat before the 'floor test' or 'vote of confidence' is carried out to prove the majority in favour of any political party or group, it would be highly unethical and unconstitutional, and cause great damage to the democratic process as well the rights of a minority community.
We urge you, Sir, to nominate a person from our community only after the political process of installing a government is completed after the 'floor test' or 'vote of confidence' has been won by the concerned political party or group, irrespective of who it is.
We are confident that you will protect our constitutional rights as a minority community and not allow our seat to be politicised and used for political gain.
With warmest regards and best wishes,
The All-India Anglo-Indian Association
After not getting any reply from the governor, the organisation decided to approach the Supreme Court. The Karnataka Congress, too, had submitted a similar writ petition in court on Thursday. "It is submitted that taking advantage of the power under Article 333 of the Constitution the Respondent No. 3 (BS Yeddyurappa) and his party (BJP) are now attempting to nominate an Anglo Indian MLA to fill nominated seat immediately to illegally raise their strength in the House with a view to outnumber the Petitioners who enjoy support of majority of the elected legislators being 116 in number," according to the petition submitted by Congress in the court.
Meanwhile, reports surfaced in some newspapers suggesting Vinisha Nero, a sitting MLA in the Karnataka assembly, had been nominated to the post, that was later denied by both Nero and the Anglo-Indian association. "This is absolutely fake news," wrote Nero in a Facebook post on Thursday. "Secularism and Congress are in my DNA and I will not sell my integrity or commitment to such values for money or power."
Now the Anglo-Indian community is hoping to use this moment to call for a fair process of nomination of such members to state legislative assemblies across the country. "We want to put a procedure in place," said O'Brien, adding that at the moment nominated Anglo-Indian MLAs are not required to be interviewed or declare their assets.
"There is currently no call for applications and no clear weightage given to certain aspects of an application like who represents the community well and has a proven record of serving Anglo-Indians," he said. "Thanks to the digital world now the whole community can finally voice themselves."