JUDGES DI­VIDED, TAMIL NADU GOVT SUR­VIVES

Hindustan Times ST (Mumbai) - - HTNATION - CS Kotteswaran and M Manikan­dan

CHEN­NAI: A two-judge bench of the Madras high court de­liv­ered a split ver­dict on Thursday on pe­ti­tions chal­leng­ing the dis­qual­i­fi­ca­tion of 18 dis­si­dent All In­dia Anna Dravida Mun­netra Kazhagam (AIADMK) leg­is­la­tors.

The judg­ment en­sures the gov­ern­ment, which en­joys a slen­der ma­jor­ity of eight seats in an assem­bly with ef­fec­tive strength of 216, will not face a floor test soon. The case will now go to a third judge, who will be picked by the third-most se­nior judge avail­able, thereby also ef­fec­tively de­lay­ing any by­polls for the va­cant seats.

A bench of chief jus­tice Indira Ban­er­jee and jus­tice M Sun­dar de­liv­ered di­ver­gent ver­dicts on whether the 18 MLAS de­served to be dis­qual­i­fied un­der the anti-de­fec­tion law by speaker P Dhana­pal on Septem­ber 18 last year for ap­proach­ing the gov­er­nor and seek­ing the re­moval of chief min­is­ter EK Palaniswami. The MLAS sup­ported TTV Dhi­nakaran, nephew of for­mer chief min­is­ter Jay­alalithaa’s aide Sasikala.

Sasikala was at that time locked in a power bat­tle with Palaniswami and deputy chief min­is­ter O Pan­neer­sel­vam.

Jus­tice Ban­er­jee said the court will not in­ter­vene in the speaker’s or­der but Jus­tice Sun­dar struck down the or­der, say­ing it was against the nat­u­ral law of jus­tice and a vi­o­la­tion of con­sti­tu­tional man­date.

The ver­dict is a boost for Palaniswami as the restora­tion of the mem­ber­ship of the MLAS would have brought his gov­ern­ment close to the half­way mark in a house where the op­po­si­tion -Dravida Mun­netra Kazhagam (DMK), Congress and In­dian Union Mus­lim League -- has 98 MLAS.

Dhi­nakaran now heads a splin­ter AIADMK group called Amma Makkal Mun­netra Kazhagam and is the only MLA from the out­fit.

If the mem­ber­ship of the 18 MLAS had been re­stored, the com­bined op­po­si­tion strength would have been 117, one less than the ma­jor­ity mark in the 234mem­ber assem­bly.

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