Chennai: The Madras high court on Friday dismissed petitions to disqualify 11 All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) MLAs, including Tamil Nadu deputy chief minister O. Panneerselvam, for having voted against chief minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami during a motion of confidence in February last year.
The first bench of chief justice Indira Banerjee and justice Abdul Quddhose, observed that the court cannot interfere with the powers of the speaker.
Last September, opposition Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam’s (DMK) whip R. Sakkarapani and four MLAs who are supporters of T.T.V. Dhinakaran moved the Madras high court seeking direction to the speaker and the assembly secretary to begin disqualification proceedings against Panneerselvam and 10 other AIADMK MLAs who had voted against chief minister Palaniswami during a trust vote on 18 February 2017.
Last month, Madras high court reserved its order on the petitions.
Following attempts by the jailed leader V.K. Sasikala to become chief minister, Panneerselvam rebelled against the ruling party and gained the support of 10 other legislators, in February last year.
On 16 February, a day after Sasikala was jailed in a disproportionate assets case, Palaniswami was sworn in as chief minister. While Palaniswami won the trust vote with the support of 122 MLAs, 11 legislators including Panneerselvam voted against him, only to join hands with the chief minister in the next few months.
Following the merger, as Panneerselvam settled for the deputy chief minister’s post, Dhinakaran and his supporters were sidelined from the party. Last September, 18 MLAs loyal to Dhinakaran who approached the then governor Vidyasagar Rao with a letter expressing lack of confidence in Palaniswami, were disqualified by the speaker Dhanapal because of the anti-defection law.
So far, the argument has been that, while the speaker decided to disqualify the 18 MLAs, the 11 legislators who voted against Palaniswami were not disqualified.
While the 18 assembly constituencies of the disqualified legislators have gone unrepresented in the recent budget session and other two assembly proceedings, the verdict on the petition challenging the speaker’s disqualification order is pending in Madras high court.