Chennai, June 14: A two-judge bench of the Madras High Court on Thursday delivered a split verdict after hearing the case against the disqualification of 18 AIADMK MLAs for “anti-party activities” and referred the case to a larger bench.
This is a setback for TTV Dinakaran, as the MLAs are from the faction of the AIADMK led by him. The court has ordered that no floor test or bypolls can be conducted till its final order providing stability to Edappadi K Palaniswami government in Tamil Nadu.
The split verdict was delivered by Chief Justice of Madras HC Indira Banerjee and Justice M Sundar. While the CJ upheld Speaker P Dhanapal’s decision to disqualify the 18 MLAs loyal to TTV Dinkaran, Justice Sunder disagreed. A third judge, who will be now be appointed by the senior-most judge in the court, will hear the matter afresh.
The rebel MLAs were allegedly issued a disqualification order owing to their allegiance to sidelined party leader TTV Dinakaran.
A bunch of petitions filed by 18 AIADMK rebel lawmakers in Madras High Court challenged the decision of the Speaker of the assembly who disqualified them last year ahead of a trust vote.
The High Court did not stay the Speaker’s move but put the floor test on hold and directed that the 18 seats be kept vacant till its final orders.
In September last year, Speaker P Dhanapal had disqualified 18 AIADMK lawmakers close to sacked party chief VK Sasikala for writing to then Governor Vidyasagar Rao, withdrawing support to Palaniswami and seeking his replacement. They had made it clear that they were not withdrawing support to the AIADMK government. There would be no threat to the government if the disqualification is upheld as the effective strength of the house would come down to 215.
The Speaker had acted on a plea filed by the AIADMK whip in the assembly who contended that the rebels through their action had tried to topple the state government and hence invited action according to the anti-defection law.
The AIADMK has 116 lawmakers, excluding the Speaker, in the 234-member assembly.The opposition DMK has a tally of 98 and VK Sasikala’s nephew TTV Dhinakaran is the lone Independent legislator.
Recently, three more lawmakers extended their support to Dhinakaran, thus reducing AIADMK to 113 — four less than the simple majority mark.