'It Appears There Is A Split Within Party' : Supreme Court Refuses To Stay Expulsion Of OPS From AIADMK

Awstika Das

19 Jan 2024 8:51 AM GMT

  • It Appears There Is A Split Within Party : Supreme Court Refuses To Stay Expulsion Of OPS From AIADMK

    In a major setback to former chief minister O Panneerselvam and other members who were expelled from All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), the Supreme Court on Friday (January 19) refused to stay the general council resolutions that led to their removal.The expelled leaders, Panneerselvam, R Vaithilingam and others, approached the Supreme Court challenging the Madras High...

    In a major setback to former chief minister O Panneerselvam and other members who were expelled from All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), the Supreme Court on Friday (January 19) refused to stay the general council resolutions that led to their removal.

    The expelled leaders, Panneerselvam, R Vaithilingam and others, approached the Supreme Court challenging the Madras High Court's dismissal of their appeals seeking relief against the council's resolution. Their special leave petitions were heard by a bench of Justices Sanjiv Khanna and Dipankar Datta.

    During the hearing today, Senior Advocate KK Venugopal appeared for Paneerselvam. He told the bench that the post of general secretary was removed to commemmorate former chief minister J Jayalalithaa after her death. "She was declared the eternal general secretary of the party and two posts equal to this post were created, namely, coordinator and joint coordinator. Panneerselvam was the joint coordinator..."

    Justice Khanna, however, pointed out that this change was not effected through an amendment to the party's constitution. Referring to a February 2023 judgment of the top court affirming a high court order that allowed Edappadi Palaniswamy to continue as AIADMK's interim general secretary, the judge said, "An amendment had to be made by the general council, and not the executive council. That is why you lost the earlier litigation."

    Following a coup by the Edappadi Palaniswamy-faction, a special resolution was passed despite the lack of any provision allowing the expulsion of a joint coordinator from the party, Venugopal argued. "So far as he is concerned, this is political death."

    "Why? He can split the party. That happens," Justice Khanna countered, before asserting that the prayer in Panneerselvam's application to stay the general council's resolution could not be allowed inasmuch as it would amount to decreeing the civil suit pending on the subject-matter.

    "The high court held that a prima facie case may be made out but the balance of convenience is not there. How can we stay the general council resolution at this stage? It is virtually allowing the suit. Prima facie case may not be enough. Continue with the suit, we'll not be able to interfere at this stage. There are two things. By giving the relief, we would be decreeing the suit. Second, to us, it does appear that there is a split within party. It will work itself out. By interfering, we will make it worse. At this stage, our interference will create huge chaos."

    Venugopal protested, saying that the civil suit would take years to be decided. "The suit will take at least five years. Will Your Lordships leave me in limbo after seeing so much injustice?"

    To this, Justice Khanna curtly responded, "We know what we are doing."

    The submissions made by senior advocates S Gurukrishna Kumar and Gopal Sankaranarayanan also did not persuade the bench to stay the impugned resolutions. However, acceding to Venugopal's request, it added a direction to the trial court to dispose of the civil suit expeditiously. Dismissing the special leave petitions filed by the ousted members, the court pronounced,

    "We are not inclined to interfere with impugned judgment as granting injunction may have its own unpalatable consequences. However, we deem it appropriate to observe that the impugned judgment, including the order passed by the single-judge will not be considered to be opinions on the merits of the case, nor will the dismissal of this special leave petition. We expect that the trial in the civil suit will proceed expeditiously and the parties will not take adjournments. Learned counsel for the respondent undertakes to file a written statement within a period of three weeks from today. No further time will be granted. Liberty is also granted to the petitioner to file an application for the consolidation or transfer of the civil suits to one court."

    Even after the bench pronounced the order, Venugopal remonstrated against the unfairness of the resolution and the court's refusal to interfere with it. "Elections will be taking place, we will have to contest. He is in limbo because has no party."

    In response, Justice Khanna said, "I am not a politician, neither do I understand politics...But I also know what will happen. You will put up a cabinet of your choice to sign up in the election. Not yourself, but through someone. There are certain things, Mr Venugopal, that we also understand."

    Justice Datta also added, "It is not proper for the Supreme Court to regulate proceedings in high courts. They have their own problems."


    Through a resolution passed on a July 2022 meeting, the AIADMK expelled several senior members from the party and appointed Edappadi Palaniswami as the interim general secretary. A single-judge bench of Justice Kumaresh Babu, however, refused to interfere with the general council resolution that was challenged by the former AIADMK politicians. 

    A division bench of the Madras High Court, in its August 2023 ruling, also rejected the appeals filed by the ousted leaders, asserting that there was no prima facie case warranting relief. The court found no grounds to interfere with the general council's decisions, including the expulsion of the appellants and the revival of the post of general secretary. The expelled leaders - Panneerselvam, R Vaithilingam, Paul Manoj Pandian, and JCD Prabhakar - had contended that the party resolutions were arbitrary and ran counter to democratic principles, alleging a lack of due process in their removal. They further challenged the legitimacy of the election notification for the general secretary post, asserting a judicial overreach by the party.

    The high court had permitted the conduct of the general secretary elections but restrained the party from declaring the results until the resolution of the pending challenges. Despite this, Edappadi Palaniswamy assumed the role of general secretary after the single judge's order.

    Aggrieved by the division bench's verdict, the four politicians took the matter to the Supreme Court.

    Case Details

    O Panneerselvam v. All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam & Ors. | Special Leave Petition (Civil) No. 24812-24814 of 2023

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