The Madras High Court on Wednesday ordered to conduct a fresh General Council Meeting of the AIADMK party. The court also ordered the status quo ante, as existed on June 23, before the General Council meeting took place on July 11. The court observed that only the coordinator and the joint coordinator had the powers to convene the General Council. Thus the court in effect canceled the General Counsel meeting held on July 11 and as a result the election of Edappadi Palaniswamy as interim General Secretary of the party
The bench of Justice G Jayachandran thus allowed a plea moved by former Tamil Nadu CM O Paneerselvam challenging his expulsion from the party and the General Council meeting of the AIADMK party that was conducted on July 11. Another General Council member P Vairamuthu had also approached the court challenging the General Council meeting.
On July 11, during the General Council meeting, a resolution was passed for the expulsion of O Paneerselvam from the primary membership of the party and from his post as the Treasurer. Following this, Edappadi Palaniswami was elected as the party's interim General Secretary. Violent protests broke out resulting in clashes between the two groups of OPS and EPS. As a result, the party headquarters was sealed by the Revenue Divisional Officer. A single bench recently directed RDO to hand over the keys to the new incumbent interim General Secretary and also directed the police to provide necessary security and ensure that no untoward incident takes place.
Previously, the Supreme Court had directed the Madras High Court to consider OPS's pleas afresh and pass orders within three weeks.
When the matter was first posted before the bench of Justice Krishnan Ramasamy, OPS made a representation to the Chief Justice to shift the suit to another bench since Justice Ramasamy had passed the interim orders refusing to stall the general council meeting. He had also pointed out that the bench had made certain adverse remarks against him in the orders.
Following this, the single judge came down heavily on OPS stating that it was a cheap practice and that if he had any grievance he ought to have tackled it legally. After the representation before the Chief Justice was withdrawn, the single judge recused himself and the matter was placed before the present bench of Justice G Jayachandran.
During arguments, the OPS side contended that no meeting could be convened without the approval of the coordinator and the joint coordinator. It was also submitted that OPS was appointed as the party coordinator by 1.5 crore primary members and thus a decision taken by the General Council consisting of just 2,665 members could not oust him from that post.
The EPS side contended that the decision to convene a General Council meeting on July 11 was taken during the June 23 General Council meeting after more than 2,500 party members requested the same. As per the party bylaws, when at least one-fifth of the members made a written request for convening a general council meeting, the meeting could be convened within 30 days of such a written request.
It was also submitted that since this announcement to convene a meeting on July 11 was telecasted and published in all newspapers, it could be considered a notice. Even though 15 days' notice was necessary to convene a meeting, the same was not necessary when the meeting was requisitioned by one-fifth of the party members. Thus, he submitted that the General Council meeting held on July 11 was conducted by following the proper rules and procedure.
The opposite side responded that OPS had left the meeting before such a decision to convene a general council meeting was made.
The EPS side also submitted that the decision of the executive council to conduct the election to the post of coordinator and joint coordinator was not ratified by the June 23 General Council meeting and therefore these posts had lapsed. It was also submitted that the decision of the General Council should be taken as the decision of the party which wanted a single leadership.
This was opposed by the OPS side which submitted that the draft resolution for the June 23 meeting did not have any mention on the issue of ratification and thus such an inference could not be made.
Observing that the applicant had a right to approach the court, the court noted that a political party had a duty to conduct their party affairs adhering to the rules they have resolved to follow.
When the Party Constitution provides specific procedure to convene meeting and if anything done contrary to the written Rules which likely to cause injury to the right of the members, there is no bar to seek redressal from the Civil Court for protecting the civil right.
With respect to whether the General Council conducted on July 11 was as per law, the court observed that the Rules of the party make it clear that the General Council meeting had to be convened by the Coordinator and Joint Coordinator jointly. Without the consent of one, the other cannot convene the meeting. In such a situation, a temporary Presidium Chairman could not convene the meeting. In the present case, though one fifth of the party members requested to convene the meeting, the written request was not submitted to the Coordinator or the Joint Coordinator but to another person who was not competent under the party by-laws to receive it.
This Court finds no such material placed by the respondents to show that, a valid requisition letter from 1/5th members of the General Council reached the Co-ordinator and the Joint Coordinator, for them to convene the special General Council Meeting, within 30 days from the receipt of the requisition letter.
The court also noted that even assuming that the notice was valid, the same was issued only on July 1 and the meeting was convened without adhering to the 15 days notice period.
The practice adopted by the party in the past clearly show that, meetings were convened only on written notice duly signed by the competent person. So the defence to justify the the General Council meeting held on 11.07.2022, without proper notice and without adhering 15 days notice in advance miserable fail.
Therefore, the court noted that calling for a General Council meeting on 11th July 2022 by a person who was not authorized to call for a meeting was void ab initio. If the consequences of the void meeting were allowed to sustain, it would cause inconvenience to the party cadres who will be uncertain about their leadership.
In view of the same, the court made the below direction:
1. The court ordered status quo ante as on 23rd June 2022
2. There shall not be an Executive Council or General Council meeting without the joint consent of the Coordinator O Paneerselvam and Joint Coordinator Edappadi K Palaniswami
3. There shall be no impediment for the Coordinator and the Joint Coordinator to convene the General Council Meeting on their own jointly to decide the affairs of the party including the amendment of the party constitution restoring Single Leadership.
4. If proper representation was made by not less than one-fifth of the members of the General Council, the Coordinator, and the Joint Coordinator shall not refuse to convene the General Council meeting.
5. Upon such requisition, the General Council meeting was to be convened within 30 days from the date of receipt of such requisition and the meeting was to be held after 15 days of advance notice was given in writing.
6. The Coordinator and the Joint Coordinator were at liberty to approach the court for any further direction or for the assistance of the Commissioner in conducting the meeting.
Case Title: O Paneerselvam v. AIADMK and others
Case No: OA 368 of 2022
Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Mad) 355
Counsel for the Applicant: Mr.R.Gurukrishna Kumar, Senior Counsel Asst. by Ms.P.Rajalakshmi, Mr.A.K.Sriram, Senior Counsel for Mr.N.Pasupathi.
Counsel for the Defendant: Mr.Vijay Narayan, Senior Counsel for Mr.K.Gowtham Kumar, Mr.S.R.Rajagopal for Mr.E.Balamurugan, Mr.P.H.Arvind Pandian, Senior Counsel Asst. by Ms.P.Rajalakshmi, Mrs.Narmadha Sampathi for Mr. P.Manoj Kumar