The fate of the Edappadi Palaniswami-led government could very well be in the Madras High Court’s hands. It will be all eyes on the High Court on Thursday when it pronounces its verdict on the disqualification of 18 AIADMK MLAs.
The judgement, which was reserved by the High Court on January 24, comes nine months after the 18 MLAs were disqualified.
Why were the MLAs disqualified?
The 18 AIADMK MLAs were disqualified by Speaker 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 “voluntarily given up their party membership”. They had in August filed individual petitions with then Governor Vidyasagar Rao expressing a lack of confidence in Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswamy and withdrew support to him.
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 Speaker’s decision illegal and unauthorised, the MLAs moved the High Court seeking that the Speaker’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.
The court will decide whether the Speaker’s decision to disqualify the 18 MLAs despite no whip being issued holds ground and also whether he had the authority to disqualify the legislators for actions beyond the purview of the Tamil Nadu Assembly, reports TOI.
What happens next
Multiple scenarios can play out based on the outcome of the Madras High Court’s verdict.
If the HC upholds the disqualification of the MLAs, then Tamil Nadu will witness bye-polls to the 18 constituencies.
The outcome of the polls could decide the fate of the EPS government, which is sitting on a wafer-thin majority, with 114 MLAs. The DMK and its allies have 98 legislators. If DMK sweeps the bye-elections, it could bring down the AIADMK government. Stalin, however, will be just short of the magic figure of 117. What happens next is anybody’s guess.
If the AIADMK, however, manages to retain most seats, EPS and his Deputy O Panneerselvam are looking at a comfortable tenure until 2021.
If the HC quashes the disqualification of the 18 MLAs, then EPS may have to prove his majority in the floor of the Assembly. If the 18 MLAs, who had pledged loyalty to Dhinakaran, vote against EPS, they could bring down his government, at the risk of being disqualified yet again.
However, the 18 MLAs could also possibly force a regime change. Prior to their disqualification in September, the names of a number of CM alternatives were doing the rounds. Could Tami Nadu see a Dalit CM as proposed by Sasikala’s brother Dhivaharan? Or has the Mannargudi feud between Dhivaharan and Dhinakaran scotched the possibility of P Dhanapal in the CM’s chair?
If the first bench comprising of Chief Justice Indira Banerjee and Justice M Sundar, however, deliver a split verdict, it will buy EPS and co more time. The case will then be referred to a third judge.
Whichever scenario plays out in the Madras High Court, what’s certain is that the ‘losing’ side will in all likelihood challenge the verdict in the Supreme Court.
The disqualified MLAs are, Thangatamizhchelvan (Andipatti), R Murugan (Aroor), Mariappan Kennedy (Manamadurai), Kathirgamu (Periyakulam), C Jayanthi Padmanabhan (Gudiyatham), P Pazhaniyappan (Papireddypatti), V Senthil Balaji (Aravakurichi), Dr S Muthiah (Paramakudi), P Vetrivel (Peramboor), NG Parthiban (Sholingar), M Kothandapani (Tiruporur), TA Ezhumalai (Poonamallee), M Rangasamy (Thanjavur), R Thangadurai (Nilakottai), R Balasubramani (Ambur), Edhirkottai SG Subramanian (Sathur), R Kandaraj (Ottapidaram), and K Uma Maheshwari (Vilathikulam).