A two-judge bench of the Madras High Court gave a split verdict on petitions challenging the disqualification of 18 AIADMK MLAs allied to deposed party leader TTV Dhinakaran, giving a breather to Chief Minister K Palaniswami’s government.
The lawmakers will remain disqualified after a bench comprising Chief Justice Indira Banerjee and Justice M Sundar decided to refer the matter to a third judge. Banerjee upheld the Speaker’s order disqualifying the MLAs and Sundar struck it down, reports news agency PTI. Banerjee said a third judge, the senior-most after her, will decide who would hear the matter afresh.
News agency IANS reports the court, while maintaining status quo, said no by-elections should be held till the case is finally decided.
Justice Banerjee in her judgement said the Speaker’s decision could not be called unreasonable and need not be interfered with by the court.
On the other hand, Justice Sundar said he differed with the Chief Justice and cited a Supreme Court judgement to say that the High Court can interfere in the order of the Speaker which was not within the confines of law.
The verdict is crucial for the AIADMK (All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam) government led by Palaniswami, who took office in February 2017 with Dhinakaran’s support but later turned against him.
PTI reports the AIADMK has a strength of 116 MLAs, exluding the Speaker, in the 234-member strong House. Dhinakaran is the lone Independent member of the House.
The MLAs were disqualified after they told Tamil Nadu’s Governor in August 2017 they had lost confidence in Palaniswami and wanted a change of guard. Chief Minister Palaniswami and his deputy O Panneerselvam merged their factions in the AIADMK to depose Dhinaknaran from the party.