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Madras HC extends stay on floor test: Fate of Dinakaran’s 18 MLAs still in limbo

S Murari | Updated on: 20 September 2017, 18:45 IST
(Wikimedia Commons)

The Madras High Court on Wednesday stayed until further orders, the summoning of the Tamil Nadu Assembly for a floor test to decide on the majority for the Edappadi K Palanisami government. It has said that the petitions of the 18 rebel AIADMK MLAs, challenging their disqualification by Speaker S Dhanapal, shall be heard on 4 October.

Justice M Duraiswamy also directed that the Election Commission not to hold by-elections to fill these seats that had been notified to have fallen vacant.

The judge passed the order with the consent of senior counsel Aryama Sundaram representing Assembly Speaker P Dhanapal, senior counsel Dushyant Dave appearing for the disqualified MLAs, senior counsel Kapil Sibal appearing for DMK leader MK Stalin, the counsel representing Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami and others who sought time till October 4 to file their counter. Sundaram told the court that there would not be floor test for until counters were filed.

The counsel representing Governor Ch. Vidyasagar Rao told the court that the Raj Bhavan had not got any request from the Chief Minister for calling the Assembly for a floor test.

The order came on a batch of petitions filed by the 18 supporters of TTV Dinakaran challenging their disqualification on the ground that they had withdrawn support to the Palanisami government.

They had impleaded themselves on the main petition filed by Opposition Leader MK Stalin calling for an immediate meeting of the Assembly for a floor test. Stalin contended that the government had lost its majority after these legislators withdrew support. Dissidents told the court that the Speaker planned to disqualify them and then call the Assembly for a floor test to save the Government. Thereupon the judge stayed the meeting of the Assembly till Wednesday.

During the resumed hearing, the dissidents filed a fresh petition that they had since been disqualified.

Appearing for the dissidents, senior counsel Dushyant Dave said they had neither defied the AIADMK whip nor had given up membership of the party. They had not sought a change of government in their petition to the Governor, but only change of the Chief Minister as there were corruption charges against him.

He also recalled these dissidents voted for the Government when Palanisami sought confidence vote last February. On the contrary, 12 MLAs belonging to the then rival group led by O Pannerselvam had voted against and yet no action had been taken against them. What was more, Pannerselvam had been made Deputy Chief Minister after the merger of the two factions.

He said the Speaker’s order was against the Supreme Court ruling in the Yeddyurappa case in which it quashed the Speaker's order disqualifying dissident BJP legislators after they met the Governor with a similar demand for a change of Chief Minister.

Dushyant Dave alleged that the government was acting under pressure and Aryama Sundaram promptly countered that the BJP government at the Centre had no role in this.

After hearing both sides, Justice Duraiswamy passed the interim order and scheduled the hearing for 4 October. It means that the Assembly cannot meet for a floor test until the court takes a final decision on the disqualification issue.

This is a setback to the government’s plan to win the floor test after disqualifying the dissidents. On the other hand, the dissidents have failed to get an interim stay on their disqualification which would have enabled them to take part in the vote whenever it takes place.

The interim order may be a breather for the government. But it will not alter the fact that it has only a thin, contrived majority. This will make it increasingly vulnerable to pressure from supporting MLAs and Opposition parties.

First published: 20 September 2017, 18:43 IST