The Madras High Court on Thursday will decide the fate of the 18 rebel AIADMK MLAs who were disqualified last year after withdrawing support from the E Palaniswami-led government. The verdict will shape the future course of action for the united AIADMK faction, with incumbent chief minister Palaniswami and deputy CM O Panneerselvam at the helm.
It is also important for Sasikala’s nephew and independent MLA TTV Dhinakaran who is being backed by the 18 MLAs. After he was pushed out of the AIADMK party by the ruling faction, Dinakaran formed the Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam.
The 18 rebel MLAs were disqualified by the Speaker of the House under the 10th Schedule of the Constitution, known as the anti-defection law. The strength of the Tamil Nadu Assembly is presently 216 after the disqualification of the 18 MLAs. While AIADMK has 116 MLAs, including the Speaker, the Opposition has 98 MLAs.
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A two-judge bench of the Madras HC is expected to pronounce its judgment after 1:00 pm today. Here are the three possible outcomes of the verdict, and what it could mean for the State Assembly:
1. Split verdict:
In case the bench led by Chief Justice Indira Banerjee delivers a split verdict, the matter is likely to be referred to a larger bench. This would mean the case would be heard fresh and status quo would be maintained in the case until the next verdict. Another possibility is the bench might ask Speaker Dhanpal to reconsider his decision to disqualify the MLAs.
2. If the court upholds Speaker’s decision:
If the court decides that the MLAs’ disqualification is lawful, the rebel MLAs’ petition will be dismissed and bypolls will be conducted for the 18 seats currently held by the respective rebel MLAs. Earlier, the court ordered a stay over announcing dates for the bypolls.
After the MLAs’ disqualification, the strength of the Assembly came down to 216 and the halfway mark became 108. AIADMK enjoys a majority with 116 lawmakers on its side.
3. If the disqualification is quashed:
In this scenario, the 18 MLAs will be back in the Assembly and the government would be in minority, forcing CM Palaniswami to take a floor test. However, if the 18 MLAs vote against the party whip then they will find themselves disqualified again. This would be mean fresh polls will be held for the 18 constituencies, giving a chance for Opposition to form the government. Another scenario that could play out is the Dinakaran camp removing Palaniswami as chief minister to form the government.