Verdict in 18 MLAs disqualification case at 10.30 am

Verdict in 18 MLAs disqualification case at 10.30 am

Madras High Court

Madras High Court will on Thursday deliver its much-awaited judgement on the disqualification of 18 rebel MLAs — a verdict that has the potential to decide the fate of the AIADMK Government and the future course of Tamil Nadu's politics.

Justice M Sathyanarayanan, the third judge who was appointed to hear the case afresh by the Supreme Court after the first bench of then chief justice Indira Banerjee and Justice S Sundar delivered a split verdict, will give his ruling at 10.30 am.

The verdict is keenly awaited in political circles as it could either lead to ushering in a political upheaval in Tamil Nadu or allow status quo to prevail. The 18 MLAs owing allegiance to jailed AIADMK leader V K Sasikala and her nephew T T V Dhinakaran, whose faction now functions under Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam (AMMK), were disqualified by Assembly Speaker P Dhanapal in September last year after they submitted letters withdrawing their support to Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami.

The MLAs withdrew their support to Palaniswami in August after the latter patched up with 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 against the legislators contending that their decision was tantamount to voluntarily giving up membership of the party.

If the disqualification is quashed, which is the demand of the legislators, the EPS-OPS Government would plunge into minority status and might be forced to face a floor test by Opposition DMK and Dhinakaran. As per the official website of the Tamil Nadu Assembly, the current strength is 216 as the disqualification of the 18 MLAs still stands ground. Of the 216, the AIADMK has 117, including Dhanapal, the DMK and its allies 98 and Dhinakaran from AMMK.

Besides the 18 MLAs, at least three more legislators have openly pledged their support to Dhinakaran and have been asserting that they would vote against the AIADMK Government during the floor test as and when it takes place. However, the Dhinakaran faction might use a favourable verdict, in case, to demand change of Chief Minister, their original demand.

Dhinakaran has been maintaining that the demand of the legislators was only about changing the chief minister and not toppling the government installed by late J Jayalalithaa.

The EPS-OPS duo could be in trouble even if the bench upholds the Speaker's decision as it would lead to conduct of fresh elections in 18 constituencies which could be a much bigger challenge for them, though there will be no threat to the government till the polls are held, political observers said. Two other constituencies will also go to by-polls due to death of its members.

Justice Sathyanarayanan had reserved the order in the case in August after hearing the arguments for 12 days. 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.

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