Madras HC reserves verdict in MLAs disqualification

Madras HC reserves verdict in MLAs disqualification

A view of the Madras High Court. (pic for representation only)

The Madras High Court on Friday reserved orders in the case relating to the disqualification of 18 rebel AIADMK MLAs, a verdict that has the potential to decide the fate of the AIADMK government in Tamil Nadu.

As arguments by all the sides – the MLAs, chief minister and the Speaker – concluded, Justice Sathyanarayanan, who was appointed by the Supreme Court to hear the case afresh following a split verdict delivered by the first bench consisting of the then Chief Justice Indira Banerjee and Justice M Sundar in June, reserved the verdict.

The arguments by all three sides were presented before the judge for 12 days spread over nearly two months. The verdict is keenly awaited as it is likely to have a bearing on the continuance of the Edappadi K Palaniswami government.

If the disqualification is upheld, then the AIADMK would be forced to face by-elections and in case it is struck down, the government might have to face a floor test to prove its majority. If one goes strictly by the arithmetic, the government would be short of the magic figure of 117 in the event of the disqualified MLAs voting against the Palaniswami dispensation.

During the course of the argument, the two sides stuck to their known positions – while the MLAs argued that their disqualification was illegal, the counsel representing Speaker P Dhanapal justified his client's decision.

In their judgement delivered on June 14, Justice Banerjee and Justice Sundar had disagreed with each other on Dhanapal's decision to disqualify the 18 MLAs. While Banerjee upheld the Speaker's decision, her companion judge quashed the order of the presiding officer contending that it was in contradiction with Constitutional provisions.

After the split verdict, Banerjee asked seniormost judge Justice Huluvadi G Ramesh to appoint the third judge, who named Justice S Vimala. However, the MLAs approached the Supreme Court seeking change a judge after which the top court appointed Justice Sathyanarayanan.

The MLAs were disqualified in September last year for meeting the then Governor Ch Vidyasagar Rao and submitting a no-confidence letter against Palaniswami on August 22.

The AIADMK construed this as an act that would attract disqualification and removed 18 MLAs. One MLA, S T K Jakkaiyan, went back to the chief minister's camp after submitting an apology letter to the Speaker. Infuriated at the disqualification, the MLAs approached the high court seeking quashing of the Speaker's order.