The Madras High Court on Thursday ordered that no floor test would be conducted in the Tamil Nadu Assembly till September 20. Justice M Duraiswami passed the interim order on petitions by DMK working president M K Stalin and MLA P Vetrivel, a staunch loyalist of ousted AIADMK leader TTV Dhinakaran.
Citing pending disqualification proceedings against 19 MLAs loyal to Dhinkaran in view of their rebellion against Chief Minister K Palaniswami, the petitioners submitted that they apprehended the Speaker might disqualify the legislators. This may go in favour of the Chief Minister in case of a floor test to prove his majority, they contended.
Stalin, in his petition, had sought a direction to the Governor to order a floor test for the Palaniswami government, claiming that it had lost is majority in view of the 19 MLAs expressing their lack of confidence in the chief minister.
Vetrivel, who filed an impleading petition, submitted he had apprehension that he might be disqualified by the Speaker during the proceedings initiated on a prayer by the government Chief Whip.
After the whip sought disqualification of the 19 MLAs under the anti-defection law, the Speaker had issued notices to them seeking their response, the time limit for which ended on Thursday.
Earlier, state Advocate General Vijay Narayan informed the judge that the constitutional process by the Speaker had started and the court could not pass orders based on apprehensions of the petitioners. Narayan stated this in response to a directive by the judge earlier in the day asking him to ascertain from the Speaker whether he intended to pass any order on the matter.
Senior counsel Kapil Sibal, appearing for Stalin, submitted that the Speaker might pass an order disqualifying the 19 MLAs and might conduct the floor test on even Sunday so that they would not have time to approach courts for relief. He said at least 48 hours should be given before a floor test.
The Speaker’s counsel submitted the court cannot interfere in the process of a constitutional authority such as the Speaker. Once the constitutional process was over and if any order was passed, then a judicial review would always be available to the aggrieved parties, he submitted. The court cannot act based on apprehensions and expect the Speaker to reply whether he was going to take a decision today or tomorrow, he said.
Sibal argued that even issuing privilege notices to 21 DMK MLAs over their action in displaying banned ‘gutkha’ in the assembly had been done only with the malafide intention to save the government. The MLAs have revolted against Palaniswami after the merger of party factions led by him and deputy chief minister O Panneerselvam on August 21.
In his petition, Stalin also wanted the floor test to be held under the supervision of an independent observer appointed by the high court. Stalin, the Leader of the Opposition in the assembly, sought a direction to the chief minister, restraining him from taking any major policy decision, pending the disposal of his petition.
Besides the withdrawal of support by the 19 MLAs, the 98 MLAs of the DMK and its allies in the opposition had expressed their “unequivocal no-confidence” in the government, it said.
“Hence, it is clear that the the government has lost its majority,” he had contended adding it was the duty of the governor to ask the government to prove its strength in the 234-member assembly with one vacancy.
The AIADMK has 134 members excluding the Speaker.