Relief to AIADMK as High Court upholds unseating of 18 MLAs (Roundup)

Updated on : Oct 25,2018   8:24 pm

Chennai, Oct 25 (IANS) In a major relief to the AIADMK government in Tamil Nadu, the Madras High Court on Thursday upheld the state Assembly Speaker's order disqualifying 18 AIADMK legislators last year that could pave the way for bye-elections in 20 constituencies, including two that fell vacant following the death of MLAs.

Justice M. Sathyanarayanan, the third judge named by the Supreme Court after a split verdict delivered by a two-judge bench earlier, upheld Speaker P. Dhanapal's order, saying it was done under the provisions of the anti-defection law and vacated the stay on holding bye-elections to these constituencies.

Before reading out the operative portions of the judgement, Justice Sathyanarayanan observed that he was giving his verdict independently on the basis of the arguments presented before him and was not going by the judgement given by the then Chief Justice Indrani Banerjee and Justice M. Sundar.

Dismissing all the writ petitions filed by 18 disqualified MLAs, the judge, in his 475-page judgement, said the high Constitutional office of the Speaker is always considered as the respectable position in tune with the said office and the Speaker is expected to be not only impartial but should be perceptible.

"In the impugned order, the first respondent/Speaker had dealt with the preliminary issues and the main issues and reached the conclusion on thorough consideration and appreciation of the materials placed before him," he said.

"It is also a settled position of law that an order is not invalid merely because by a process of interference and if the decision of the first respondent/Speaker is a possible and plausible view, this court cannot substitute its own evaluation of the conclusion of law and facts, to arrive/reach an altogether different conclusion," the judgement said.

The judge said the court was not inclined to take cognizance of the subsequent events/developments as it was called upon to test the impugned order with the materials that were available before the first respondent.

"However, in the circumstances of the case, there shall be no order as to costs. Consequently, connected miscellaneous petitions for interim stay shall stand dismissed and the interim orders are vacated," he said.

The disqualified legislators are with sidelined party leader T.T.V. Dhinakaran, now an independent legislator in the Tamil Nadu Assembly.

Reacting to the judgement, Dhinakaran told reporters: "We will discuss with the 18 legislators and decide on the future course of action." He said it was "an experience for us".

"If the 18 disqualified legislators decide to go on appeal against the decision then we will go for an appeal," Dhinakaran said.

Chief Minister Edapadi Palaniswamy said it was a good judgement and the AIADMK was ready to face elections in these constituencies.

Stalin said the bypolls for the 20 assembly constituencies should be held immediately.

In the 235-member Assembly, the AIADMK has 115 members followed by the DMK with 88, Congress eight, one of the IUML, one Independent, the Speaker and 20 vacant seats (18 disqualified and two dead). Besides, there is a nominated member.

Three legislators though belonging to three different parties won their seats under the AIADMK's two leaves symbol. Of that, one legislator Karunas is openly supporting Dhinakaran.

Speaking to reporters after the Madras High Court verdict the advocate for 18 disqualified legislators N. Raja Senthoor Pandian said there are three options -- appeal to the Supreme Court, face bypolls or prefer an appeal and face the bypolls.

A spokesperson of PMK N.Vinobha said that the Election Commission has to hold the bypolls for Thiruparankundram and Tiruvarur constituencies by February 2019.

The PMK, as a policy, does not contest bypolls.

Queried whether the party would continue with that policy if bypolls are held for 20 seats simultaneously Vinobha said: "Two scenarios are there. The bypolls could be held separately or held together with Lok Sabha polls. The party high command would take a decision on that."

While Banerjee had upheld the Speaker's decision, Justice Sundar had set it aside.

Thursday's decision of Justice Sathyanarayanan paves way for the bye-elections unless the disqualified MLAs approach the Supreme Court against their disqualification and seek a stay on the bypolls.

The disqualified legislators are with sidelined party leader T.T.V. Dhinakaran, now an Independent legislator in the Tamil Nadu Assembly. Reacting to the judgement, Dhinakaran told reporters: "We will discuss with the 18 legislators and decide on the future course of action." He said it was "an experience for us".

"If the 18 disqualified legislators decide to go on appeal against the decision then we will go for an appeal," Dhinakaran said.

The apex court had appointed Sathyanarayanan, replacing Justice Vimala who was originally appointed by the high court as the third judge following a split verdict in the case in June.

While Chief Justice Banerjee, heading the two-judge bench, declined to interfere with Dhanapal's decision taken in September 2017, Justice Sundar set aside the Speaker's order on the ground that it was hit by "perversity, non-compliance with the principles of natural justice, mala fides and a violation of the constitutional mandate".

The judges said since there was disagreement between them, the case should be transferred to a third judge.

--IANS

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