Split verdict on disqualified MLAs a relief for EPS

Split verdict on disqualified MLAs a relief for EPS

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami (right) and his deputy O Panneerselvam. (PTI file pic)

Handing out temporary relief to the AIADMK government, the Madras High Court on Thursday delivered a split verdict on the disqualification of 18 rebel MLAs owing allegiance to jailed party leader V K Sasikala and her nephew T T V Dhinakaran.

With Chief Justice Indira Banerjee and her companion judge M Sundar disagreeing with each other on Tamil Nadu Assembly Speaker P Dhanapal's decision to disqualify the MLAs on grounds of defection, the case will now go to the third judge who will be nominated by the next senior-most judge Huluvadi G Ramesh, most probably next week.

While Justice Banerjee concluded that she was unable to hold that the Speaker's decision was in "any way unreasonable, irrational or perverse", Justice Sundar said the disqualification of 18 MLAs deserves to be set aside as it was in violation of Constitutional mandate.

In plain terms, the verdict has restored the status quo since no trust vote can be held on the floor of the House and bypolls cannot be held in 18 constituencies till the case is disposed of by the third judge.

Political analysts say the split verdict was the best possible outcome for Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami and his deputy O Panneerselvam as the government faces no threat, albeit for now, and that the duo will not have to face the gruelling task of fighting bypolls in 18 seats.

"The Speaker in his impugned order asserted that there had been no violation of the principles of natural justice. I am unable to hold that the said decision (Speaker's) is in any way unreasonable, irrational or perverse," Justice Banerjee said in the order, in which she explains at length how she arrived at the judgement of validating Speaker's order.

Disagreeing with Justice Banerjee, Justice Sundar said testing whether the principles of natural justice have been given a go-by or not may not be as simple as counting the number of days given.

"What is to be tested is the nature of opportunity that was given/not given, as also the kind of opportunity the facts of the case demand," Justice Sundar said, adding that the Speaker's order deserves to be set aside "not only on grounds of perversity, noncompliance with principles of natural justice and mala fides, but also on the ground of violation of constitutional mandate."

Yeddyurappa case

Justice Sundar also made it clear that he was passing the order without relying on the B S Yeddyurappa case (2010 in Supreme Court) owing to the controversy regarding implied overruling which has been left open.

The 18 MLAs were disqualified by Speaker Dhanapal in September last year after they submitted letters withdrawing support to Palaniswami in August after the latter patched up with the then rebel O Panneerselvam and inducted him into his Cabinet as deputy chief minister. The Speaker's move came based on petitions filed by AIADMK chief whip S Rajendiran seeking action against the legislators contending that their decision was tantamount to voluntarily giving up membership of the party.