JUDGES DIVIDED, TAMIL NADU GOVT SURVIVES
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.