3rd judge to hear pleas against MLAs' disqualification

3rd judge to hear pleas against MLAs' disqualification


Days after a division bench gave a split verdict, Justice S Vimala of the Madras High Court was on Monday named the third judge to hear afresh the petitions by 18 pro-Dhinkaran AIADMK MLAs challenging their disqualification.

Justice Huluvadi G Ramesh, the second senior most judge of the court, appointed Justice Vimala to hear the pleas when the matter was placed before him, court sources said.

Chief Justice Indira Banerjee and Justice M Sundar had given the split verdict on June 14 following which the former had ordered that the senior-most judge after her would decide the judge for hearing the matter afresh.

In a huge relief to the AIADMK government in Tamil Nadu, the bench had delivered divergent verdicts on the petitions challenging the September 18 order of state Assembly Speaker P Dhanapal, disqualifying the MLAs under the anti-defection law.

The Chief Justice had upheld the Speaker's order while Justice Sundar set it aside. The MLAs, loyal to sidelined leader T T V Dhinakaran, were disqualified for approaching the state Governor and seeking the removal of Chief Minister K Palaniswami in August last year. In her 200-page order, the chief justice had upheld the Speaker's decision, saying "I am unable to hold that the said decision is any way unreasonable, irrational or perverse."

Dissenting note

Justice Sundar, in his 135-page order, had struck a dissenting note, insisting that Dhanapal's order "deserved to be set aside on grounds of perversity, non-compliance with principles of natural justice, mala fides and violation of the constitutional mandate". The verdict was a relief for the Palaniswami government as the restoration of the membership of the MLAs could have brought it perilously close to losing majority in the event of their joining hands with the opposition DMK-Congress-IUML alliance, which together has 98 MLAs in the 234-member assembly.

In that eventuality, the Opposition's strength would have swelled to 117, including Dhinakaran, who is the lone independent MLA. The AIADMK also has 117 members in the House, including the Speaker.

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