The Madras High Court Thursday delivered a split verdict in the case against the disqualification of 18 MLAs from the Tamil Nadu Assembly. A two-judge bench, comprising Chief Justice Indira Banerjee and Justice M Sundar, was hearing a clutch of petitions challenging Speaker P Dhanapal’s decision to disqualify the 18 legislators for “anti-party activities.” While the Chief Justice upheld the Speaker’s decision, Justice Sundar disagreed and struck it down. The case will now be referred to a third judge, nominated by a senior judge in the court Justice Huluvadi Ramesh, who will hear the matter afresh.
The court has said that no floor test or bypoll can be held till its final verdict. The 18 MLAs, loyal to AIADMK rebel leader TTV Dinakaran, remain disqualified from the House.
Reacting to the verdict, Dinakaran, an Independent MLA representing the RK Nagar constituency, said, “Only God knows how the same judge (CJ of Madras High court) delivers contradicting verdicts on two similar cases (disqualification of 18 MLAs in Tamil Nadu and three in Puducherry).”
The verdict is likely to come of relief to the ruling AIADMK party at the helm of the government, which now has time to try to strike an understanding with Dinakaran’s MLAs.
Last September, the Speaker had ordered disqualification of 18 rebel MLAs after they submitted letters to Tamil Nadu Governor in-charge C Vidyasagar Rao withdrawing support to the CM. The Speaker, who was of the view that this amounted to voluntarily giving up their party membership, suspended them under Schedule 10 of the Constitution.
The disqualified MLA are Thangatamilselvan, R Murugan, S Mariappan Kennedy, K Karthirkamu , C Jayanthi Padmanabhan, P Palaniappan, V Senthilbalaji, S Muthiah , P Vetrivel, N G Parthiban, M Kothandapani , T A Elumalai, M Rengasamy, R Thangathurai, R Balasubramani, Ethirkottai S G Subramanian, R Sundaraj and K Uma Maheswari.
In the Tamil Nadu Assembly, which comprises 234 seats, the ruling AIADMK faction has 116 MLAs. TTV was recently elected to the House after he contested the RK Nagar bypoll as an Independent. The Opposition has 98 seats, including 89 MLAs of DMK, eight of Congress and one of the IUML. There is one nominated MLA in the House.