More than a year after 18 AIADMK MLAs, who had pledged loyalty to ousted AIADMK Deputy General Secretary and independent MLA TTV Dhinakaran, the Madras High Court on Thursday upheld the Tamil Nadu Speakerâ€™s order disqualifying them. The order will come as a relief for the Edappadi Palaniswami government, which is riding on a wafer-thin majority. The verdict also means that the Election Commission have to notify bye-elections to the 18 constituencies that have fallen vacant.
"In politics, there is no setback. It is only an experience. We thought we will get a favourable verdict for us. But the judgment is the opposite. We will discuss with the 18 MLAs and decide our future course of action. Whatever the 18 MLAs decide -- if they decide to appeal, we will appeal, if they decide to face the elections, then we will not appeal. So whatever they decide, we will stand by that," TTV Dhinakaran told mediapersons after the verdict.
A two-judge bench comprising of then Madras High Court Chief Justice Indira Banerjee and M Sundar delivered a split verdict. While Indira Banerjee said that she found no reason to 'interfere' in the Speaker's decision, Justice M Sundar found the disqualification to be against principles of natural justice. This was then referred to a third judge. While Justice S Vimala was elected as a third judge, one of the legislators went to the Supreme Court, following which Justice M Sathyanarayana was chosen.
In August last year, the 18 AIADMK MLAs met then-Governor Vidyasagar Rao and filed individual petitions, expressing a lack of confidence in Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami. Following this, based on the complaint made by the AIADMK party whip S Rajendran, the Speaker P Dhanapal passed the disqualification order in September.
The 18 AIADMK MLAs were disqualified by P Dhanapal on September 18 and a gazette notification was issued, declaring that vacancies to their seats have arisen due to the Anti-Defection Act.
The MLAs, who were supporting ousted AIADMK Deputy General Secretary, now AMMK leader and RK Nagar MLA TTV Dhinakaran, were disqualified on the grounds that they had â€śvoluntarily given up their party membershipâ€ť.
Following this, AIADMK Chief Whip S Rajendran filed a complaint with the Speaker claiming that the MLAs were indulging in anti-party activities.
Calling the Speakerâ€™s decision illegal and unauthorised, the MLAs moved the High Court seeking that the Speakerâ€™s decision be quashed and their constitutional right be restored.
While hearing the case, the Madras High Court had on September 20 ordered a stay on the notifying bye-polls to the 18 seats but refused to stay the disqualification.