Will disqualification of 18 rebel AIADMK MLAs stand legal scrutiny? Experts divided
The disqualification was a boost to chief minister E Palaniswami because it brought the halfway mark in the 234-member assembly to 108 from 117. The AIADMK government claims the support of 114 MLAsUpdated: Sep 19, 2017 10:57 IST
Expert opinion is divided on whether Tamil Nadu assembly speaker P Dhanpal’s disqualification of 18 rebel AIADMK MLAs supporting expelled leader TTV Dinakaran will stand legal scrutiny.
The disqualification was a boost to chief minister E Palaniswami because it brought the halfway mark in the 234-member assembly to 108 from 117. The AIADMK government claims the support of 114 MLAs.
Former speaker S Muthaiah, said that the disqualification could be faulty as the speaker had cited a letter written by the MLAs to the governor, withdrawing support to the chief minister. In those letters, the MLAs mentioned that they were AIADMK MLAs, so it is clear that they had not switched over to any other party. So, the anti-defection law did not apply to them, the former speaker said, adding these MLAs did nothing against the party in assembly, where the speaker can take action.
AIADMK leader KC Palanisamy said the rebel MLAs were liable to lose membership as they colluded with the opposition DMK in filing cases in court and in giving letters to governor expressing their withdrawal of support to the chief minister. This was enough for the speaker to initiate action against the MLAs and he had given them sufficient time to respond.
Palanisamy also defended the speaker’s ‘inaction’ on a previous occasion when former chief minister O Panneerselvam (OPS) and his team of 11 MLAs had voted against chief minister Palaniswami in a trust vote in February, saying that the OPS faction had already intimated the Election Commission of the split and that the AIADMK whip did not apply to them.
Former Madras high court judge K Chandru felt that even if the rebel MLAs get a stay on the order, it would not matter for the EPS government because even if the MLAs attend the house, they would still have to follow the party whip, and vote along with the party. If they don’t, they would get disqualified.
Speaking hypothetically, he said that even if the government fell and the house was kept under suspended animation, the speaker could then disqualify legislators who defied the whip and the MLAs will lose their seats anyway, and by extension benefits accruing to MLAs after the term is completed.
In the case when a house is in suspended animation, after some time, chance is given to a person with the highest number of MLAs. Even in that case, EPS-OPS combine qualifies, given the current strength of the house.
BJP leader Subramaian Swamy told a private television that the speaker’s order would be thrown out by a court as it was partisan and faulty. These MLAs have done nothing illegal or against the party. Speaking in a similar vein was A Sarvanan, a lawyer representing the DMK, who said the DMK has already filed a petition in the Madras high court as it had anticipated disqualification to be followed by an immediate floor test.
The Madras High Court has stayed any floor test till Wednesday when the case will be taken up. The DMK has also moved the Madras high court to direct the governor to order a floor test at the earliest.