The Madras High Court today reserved its orders on a batch of petitions challenging the disqualification of 18 AIADMK MLAs owing allegiance to sidelined party leader TTV Dhinakaran. The first bench comprising Chief Justice Indira Banerjee and Justice M Sundar reserved the orders without specifying any date.
The MLAs were disqualified by Tamil Nadu Assembly Speaker P Dhanapal on September 18 last year under the anti-defection law on a plea by the ruling party’s whip after they had met the state governor and expressed their lack of confidence in the chief minister.
The MLAs had met the governor on August 22, a day after then rival factions led by Chief Minister K Palaniswami and his now deputy O Panneerselvam merged after deposing Dhinaknaran as deputy general secretary.
The verdict is crucial for the Dhinakaran faction as well as the ruling side engaged in a power struggle in the AIADMK.
Dhinakaran had been claiming that a verdict favourbale to the MLAs would lead to the fall of the Palaniswami government.
During the hearing of the petitions which commenced on November 16, senior counsels for the respondents including the speaker, the chief whip, and the chief minister defended the disqualification of the MLAs.
The crux of their argument was that the MLAs had approached the governor with the intention to topple the government headed by Palaniswami and thereby attracted disqualification under the anti-defection law.
Senior counsels Abhishek Singhvi and P S Raman who appeared for the petitioners among others have argued that the disqualification of the 18 MLAs was a premeditated ambush.
The Speaker had passed the order based on irrelevant considerations, ignoring relevant considerations which was malice in law, Singhvi has contended.
It was also argued that the impugned order was passed by the Speaker in gross violation of principles of natural justice.
Senior counsel Ariama Sundaram, appearing for the Speaker, has argued that there was no haste, mala fide or perversity in Dhanapal passing the order.
Another senior counsel C S Vaidyanathan, representing Palaniswami, has contended the courts do not have jurisdiction to hear an appeal against such actions of the speaker.
Ridiculing the claim of the 18 legislators that they met the governor only to vent their grievances against the chief minister, he had wondered, “How can the governor of the state interfere in internal party issues?”
Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, representing the AIADMK chief whip, has said the MLAs had failed to resolve the internal party issues by approaching appropriate intra-party platforms.