Nine months after 18 AIADMK MLAs were disqualified by the Tamil Nadu Speaker P Dhanapal, the Madras High Court delivered a split verdict on Thursday. The case will now be referred to a third judge.
The first bench of the High Court led by Chief Justice Indira Banerjee and Justice M Sundar came out with differing judgements. While CJ Banerjee upheld the disqualification of the 18 AIADMK MLAs, Justice Sundar quashed the disqualification order by the Speaker.
Justice Bannerjee said she found the Speaker’s decision reasonable and therefore did not find a reason to interfere with the order. Justice Sundar meanwhile, said the Speaker’s decision was violative of the principles of natural justice which is why it should be subject to judicial review.
In a departure from standard practice, the third judge will not be chosen by the Madras HC Chief Justice as she herself heard it. The second most senior judge, Justice Huluvadi G Ramesh, will now take a call on who the third judge will be.
The verdict, which was widely predicted to threaten the Edappadi Palaniswami-led government, will now buy the ruling AIADMK more time.
This also means that status quo will be maintained. There will be no bye-elections for the 18 constituencies, nor will there be a floor test for EPS.
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 last year 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.
With no explicit whip order being issued, the MLAs moved the High Court seeking that the Speaker’s decision be quashed and their constitutional right be restored.
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).