New Delhi: In a major relief for the 17 Karnataka MLAs disqualified by then-speaker Ramesh Kumar in July, the Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled that they can contest the upcoming bypolls in the state, scheduled for December 5.

The top court, however, upheld their disqualification. But it also struck down the Constitutional provision which fixed the time period for their disqualification, thus making them eligible to contest the bypolls. In this case, the MLAs were to stay disqualified till the end of the term of the 15th Karnataka Assembly.

The three-judge bench, led by Justice NV Ramana, also took umbrage at how the petitioners approached the top court, observing that it ‘does not appreciate the manner in which the petitioners came to the court.’ The MLAs had moved the apex court directly, without first moving even the Karnataka High Court.

The bench, which also comprised Justices Sanjiv Khanna and Krishna Murari, also ruled that if elected, the MLAs can become ministers or hold public office.

In July, the 17 MLAs-14 from Congress and three from Janata Dal (Secular)-had rebelled against the coalition government under Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy of the JD(S) and flew to Mumbai and stayed there. Their action led to the fall of the Congress-JD(S) government, paving the way for the return to power of the BJP, with BS Yediyurappa being sworn-in for a fourth term.

The bypolls for 15 of the 17 vacant constituencies were earlier scheduled for October 21, along with the Maharashtra and Haryana Assembly Election and bypolls for several other states. However, these were later deferred to December 5 by the Election Commission of India (ECI) in view of the hearing in the SC over the said case.