OUSTED Tamil Nadu chief minister O Panneerselvam is set to take the legal battle against party leader V K Sasikala and current state Chief Minister E Palaniswami to the Supreme Court to challenge the proceedings of the legislative assembly last month when a confidence motion ended his chances of continuing at the helm. The AIADMK rebel leader is likely to file a petition in the apex court on Friday — a day before the court breaks for a week-long Holi vacation. Sources told The Indian Express that Panneerselvam has instructed his lawyers in New Delhi to prepare a petition under Article 32 of the Constitution on his behalf. The lawyers have also been asked to mull the possibility of getting a hearing on an urgent basis before the vacation starts. A petition under Article 32 seeks to invoke the public interest jurisdiction of the Supreme Court while underlining violation of fundamental rights.
It’s learnt that a senior lawyer, who has been been a law officer in the past, has been engaged by the beleaguered leader to settle the final petition and appear on his behalf in court.
In the proposed writ petition, sources said, Panneerselvam will challenge the validity of the assembly proceedings on February 18 when a confidence motion was passed in favour of Palaniswami.
Two days after he was sworn in as Chief Minister after a bitter power tussle in the ruling AIADMK, Palaniswami won the trust vote 122-11 in the 234-member assembly. The floor test on February 18 witnessed chaotic scenes that led to the eviction of the main Opposition DMK and a walkout by its allies in protest.
Challenging the Speaker’s decision to conduct the Vote of Confidence motion, Panneerselvam’s petition is expected to raise the contention that 122 AIADMK MLAs had reportedly come to the assembly directly from the alleged captivity of Sasikala’s aides, and that it was incumbent upon the Speaker to postpone the proceedings.
The petition is also likely to raise the question why the motion was not carried out through a secret ballot when Panneerselvam had requested the Speaker to get the voting done through such a ballot in view of peculiar circumstances of this case.
According to Panneerselvam, the Speaker was empowered under the Rule of Business to order for a secret ballot since the MLAs had allegedly been confined in a resort after the apex court on February 14 convicted and sentenced AIADMK general secretary Sasikala to four years in jail in a disproportionate assets case involving the late J Jayalalithaa. The court order dashed Sasikala’s hopes of becoming chief minister, and she chose Palaniswami to be the leader of the party and head the government.
Sources said the petition will also claim that the Vote of Confidence taken in the absence of the DMK members was void since it was in violation of the Rules of Business, which has been framed under Article 208 of the Constitution.