A Division Bench of the Madras High Court on Thursday delivered a split verdict on the petitions challenging the disqualification of 18 dissident AIADMK MLAs owing allegiance to AMMK leader TTV Dhinakaran.
While Chief Justice Indira Banerjee upheld the Speaker's decision, Justice M. Sundar disagreed. The matter will now be heard by a third Judge nominated by Justice Huluvadi G. Ramesh. Till the decision of the third Judge, no floor test will be conducted in the House.
The MLAs who had been disqualified were: Thangatamilselvan (Andipatti constituency), R. Murugan (Harur), S. Mariappan Kennedy (Manamadurai), K. Karthirkamu (Periyakulam), C. Jayanthi Padmanabhan (Gudiyattam), P. Palaniappan (Pappireddipatti), V. Senthilbalaji (Aravakurichi), S. Muthiah (Paramakudi), P. Vetrivel (Perambur), N.G. Parthiban (Sholingur), M. Kothandapani (Tiruporur), T.A. Elumalai (Poonnamalee), M. Rengasamy (Thanjavur), R. Thangathurai (Nilakottai), R. Balasubramani (Ambur), Ethirkottai S.G. Subramanian (Sattur), R. Sundaraj (Ottapidaram) and K. Uma Maheswari (Vilathikulam).
The MLAs had been disqualified on 18 September, 2017 by the Speaker, P. Dhanapal exercising his powers under the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution of India and the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly (Disqualification on ground of defection) Rules, 1986.
The disqualification proceedings emanated from a meeting between the 18 petitioners (apart from one more MLA S.T.K. Jakkaiyan who subsequently joined the ruling camp) and the then Governor (in-charge) C. Vidyasagar Rao on August 22, 2017. During this meeting, the MLAs handed over identical representations to the Governor "withdrawing their support" to the Chief Minister.
This meeting, and the subsequent press briefing by the MLAs had prompted the Chief Government Whip S. Rajendiran to petition the Speaker on 24 August, demanding that the 19 MLAs be disqualified as their actions amounted to voluntarily giving up membership of the party.
The MLAs, on the other hand, asserted that submission of representations to the Governor does not amount to giving up their membership. The Speaker had, however, disqualified 18 out of the 19 MLAs, exempting Mr. Jakkaiyyan, who had met the Speaker and informed him that he was pressurized into submitting the representation to the Governor.
The disqualified MLAs then approached the High Court. It was in November last year that the Petitions were referred to a Division Bench by Justice K. Ravichandrabaabu, in view of the constitutional issues involved in the case. The Bench comprising Chief Justice Indira Banerjee and Justice M. Sundar had thereafter, on 23 January, reserved its order.