Chennai: In a huge relief to the AIADMK government, the Madras High Court today upheld the disqualification of the 18 rebel MLAs, owing allegiance to AMMK founder T T V Dhinakaran.
Justice M Sathyanarayanan heard the pleas after a bench of then Chief Justice Indira Banerjee and Justice M Sundar gave a split verdict on the matter on 14 June.
AIADMK cadres and Ministers celebrated the verdict by distributing sweets at the party headquarters in Royapettah.
Ministers presented shawls and congratulated Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami and Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam, the joint coordinator and coordinator of the party, respectively, for the victory in the case.
The 18 AIADMK MLAs were disqualified by Speaker P Dhanapal on 18 September last year under the anti-defection law after they met the Governor and expressed loss of confidence in Palaniswami.
In view of the split verdict with Justice Indira Banerjee upholding the disqualification and Justice Sundar setting it aside, Justice S Vimala was appointed to hear the petitions afresh.
However, the apex court named Justice Sathyanarayanan, while declining to accept a prayer of the disqualified MLAs who raised apprehension of ‘bias’ and sought to transfer the matter to the apex court.
WHAT JUDGE SAID
While delivering the verdict, Justice Sathyanarayanan said there was no infirmity in the order of Dhanapal, which was upheld by Indira Banerjee. “All the material that were available at the time of passing of the order by the Speaker alone have been taken into consideration and this court cannot go into the subsequent events,” he observed while upholding their disqualification.
WHAT LED TO THE DISQUALIFICATION
It all started a day after both the then warring AIADMK factions led by Palaniswami and Panneerselvam merged on 21 August 2017, when 19 rebel MLAs, supporting Dhinakaran met the then Governor Ch Vidyasagar Rao at Raj Bhavan and handed over identical letters announcing ‘withdrawal of their support’ to the Chief Minister, following which the government fell short of a majority in the 234-member Assembly.
Following this, Chief Government Whip S Rajendran petitioned the Speaker on 24 August last year seeking to disqualify all the 19 disgruntled MLAs contending that their actions amounted to voluntarily giving up their membership of the AIADMK.
Later, one of the 19 MLAs S T K Jakkaiyan (elected from Cumbum), met the Speaker on 17 September and handed over a letter claiming that he was pressurised to submit the representation to the Governor, following which he was let off.
Acting on the Rajendran’s petition, Dhanapal disqualified the MLAs exercising his powers under the 10th schedule of the Constitution (the anti-defection law) and the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly (Disqualification on ground of defection) Rules of 1986.