Madras HC orders status quo ante on OPS expulsion, EPS elevation

Updated on Aug 18, 2022 12:41 AM IST

The ruling means that O Panneerselvam is back as the AIADMK coordinator. On July 11, he was expelled from the party and Edappadi Palaniswami (EPS) was made interim general secretary.

O Panneerselvam and his supporters pay tribute at the memorial of former Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa in Chennai on Wednesday. (ANI)
O Panneerselvam and his supporters pay tribute at the memorial of former Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa in Chennai on Wednesday. (ANI)
By, Chennai

The Madras high court ruled in favour of O Panneerselvam (OPS) on Wednesday, turning the clock back to the position before the June 23 meeting of the All India Anna Dravid Munnetra Kazhagam’s general council meeting, which set the stage for the July 11 meeting of the council in which he was expelled and Edappadi Palaniswami (EPS) was made interim general secretary.

The ruling means OPS is back as the AIADMK coordinator.

OPS reacted in a statement, saying that those who flouted AIADMK bylaws will be routed. “The party will be established and AIADMK will function as a fortress of steel,” OPS said.

This isn’t a setback for EPS, claimed AIADMK deputy general secretary KP Munusamy. “The court has told us to go back to how things were as on June 23; we will discuss the further course of action.”

The court studied the AIADMK’s bylaws and stated that while amendments to the party’s constitution can be made, due process needs to be followed. “It is for the members of the party to decide about leadership and the court cannot interfere in their decision, but if there is patent violation of the process, there is no bar from seeking remedy through the court,” the justice said in his order.

Justice G Jayachandran, who reserved the orders on August 11 and pronounced them on Wednesday in a detailed 74-page judgment, issued six directions.

These are: a return to the position before June 23 when OPS was coordinator and EPS was joint coordinator; that both leaders have to agree on holding the general council and executive council meetings; that the meeting will have to be jointly called for by them to “decide the affairs of the party including amendment of the party constitution restoring single leadership”; that as long as at least 20% of the General Council is represented, the meeting should be held; that the meeting should be held within 30 days and with written advance notice; and that the two leaders can approach the court if they need more held, such as the assistance of a court-appointed commissioner for conducting the meeting.

Soon after the verdict, OPS and senior leaders who were expelled along with him made their way to the late J Jayalalithaa’s memorial in the city’s Marina beach. Speaking to reporters there, OPS said that the Madras HC has given a landmark order. “This is what the cadre wished for because ours is a cadre-based party. No one can be autocratic and no one family can think that their party is theirs. It will never happen.”

There were celebrations at OPS’s Chennai residence, with his supporters bursting crackers, distributing sweets and holding up his portrait. One of his loyalists, Kovai Selvaraj said that the court has rejected EPS’s “selfish and autocratic” ways.

Former minister and key supporter of EPS, D Jayakumar described the verdict as temporary relief for OPS. “This verdict is not final,” Jayakumar said. He reiterated that the general council followed the AIADMK’s bylaws.

The AIADMK had a dual leadership model since J Jayalalithaa’s death in December 2016 when EPS and OPS merged their warring factions and functioned as joint coordinator and coordinator in the party. In the government, they were deputy CM and CM. After the party lost last year’s assembly elections, they became leader of the opposition and deputy leader. But EPS and his supporters started pitching for a unified single leadership on the grounds that the dual leadership arrangement was not working.

Matters came to a head at the June 23 meeting when OPS wanted a resolution backing the dual leadership structure, and the EPS camp wanted to discuss a return to a unified leadership. After a court ruling restricted the meeting’s scope, preventing it from discussing the latter, the council vetoed all items on the agenda (including the one backing the dual leadership model). A subsequent meeting on July 11 saw OPS’s expulsion, along with several other leaders, including OPS’s son, and EPS’s return as interim general secretary.

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    Divya Chandrababu is an award-winning political and human rights journalist based in Chennai, India. Divya is presently Assistant Editor of the Hindustan Times where she covers Tamil Nadu & Puducherry. She started her career as a broadcast journalist at NDTV-Hindu where she anchored and wrote prime time news bulletins. Later, she covered politics, development, mental health, child and disability rights for The Times of India. Divya has been a journalism fellow for several programs including the Asia Journalism Fellowship at Singapore and the KAS Media Asia- The Caravan for narrative journalism. Divya has a master's in politics and international studies from the University of Warwick, UK. As an independent journalist Divya has written for Indian and foreign publications on domestic and international affairs.

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