Attorney General K K Venugopal on Friday recused himself from a matter in the Supreme Court related to the February 18 trust vote in the Tamil Nadu assembly won by Chief Minister E K Palaniswami. The plea filed by AIADMK MLA K Pandiarajan, considered to be close to former chief minister O Panneerselvam, sought to set aside the trust vote in state assembly on grounds that MLAs had voted “under distress”.
Venugopal told the court that he had given legal opinion to the AIADMK faction led by Panneerselvam. A bench of Justices Dipak Misra and A M Khanwilkar then asked Venugopal to inform Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar.
“Inform the solicitor general about the recusal. Ask him to assist in the matter,” the bench said, and posted the matter for further hearing on July 11.
The apex court had on July 5 sought the attorney general’s assistance to examine the AIADMK MLA’s plea after senior advocate Gopal Subramanium claimed that MLAs had voted in the trust vote under distress and members of opposition were evicted by marshals from the assembly.
Subramanium had said there should have been a secret ballot but the Tamil Nadu Speaker, P Dhanapal, had rejected this demand from MLAs during the trust vote won by Chief Minister E K Palaniswami.
The AIADMK MLA has challenged the decision and sought a direction for quashing the speaker’s decision rejecting their demand to determine the outcome of the floor test.
Besides, the petitioner sought the setting aside of all consequential actions, including the February 18 resolution of the Assembly “expressing confidence in favour of council of ministers headed by Edappadi K Palaniswami, as the same are illegal, capricious, discriminatory and violative of the principle of ‘secrecy’ which is the essence of democracy, free and fair elections…”
He also sought a direction to the speaker to conduct a fresh floor test through a secret ballot in the presence of “independent and impartial” observers nominated by the Supreme Court.
On February 18, jailed AIADMK general secretary V K Sasikala loyalist E K Palaniswami had won the trust vote with an easy 122-11 margin. He was helped by the eviction of the main opposition DMK and a walkout by its allies, amid stormy scenes during which mikes were uprooted, chairs toppled and sheets of papers torn and hurled around.
Pandiarajan claimed that 122 MLAs belonging to AIADMK were “forcibly held hostage” at the Golden Bay Resort from February 8 till right before the voting on February 18.
He said Panneerselvam had given a representation on February 19 to Tamil Nadu governor, requesting him not to approve the February 18 resolution and urged him to fix another date for a fresh vote of confidence by secret ballot.