Action taken in haste, say disqualified MLAs to 3rd judge

By NT Bureau Published on Jul 24, 2018 10:26 AM IST

Chennai: The 18 disqualified AIADMK MLAs contended in the Madras High Court that the action against them was taken in a haste out of fear of a floor test and the party whip's complaint against them was based on unsubstantiated media reports.

The submissions were made by senior counsel P S Raman, appearing for the petitioners, as a third judge began hearing the petitions challenging the disqualification of the MLAs loyal to sidelined leader T T V Dhinakaran by the Tamilnadu Assembly Speaker on 18 September last year.

Justice M Sathyanarayanan is hearing the petitions after a bench of Chief Justice Indira Banerjee and Justice M Sundar had last month given a split verdict on the petitions.

The 18 were disqualified as MLAs by Speaker P Dhanapal under the anti-defection law after they met the State governor and expressed loss of confidence in chief minister K Palaniswami.

In view of the split verdict with the CJ upholding the disqualification and Justice Sundar setting it aside, earlier Justice S Vimala was appointed to hear the petitions afresh.

However, the Supreme Court named Justice Sathyanarayanan while declining to accept a prayer of the disqualified MLAs who raised apprehension of 'bias' and sought to transfer the matter to the apex court.

During the day-long arguments, Raman contended that the disqualification proceedings which commenced on 24 August and concluded on 18 September 2017 were vitiated by gross violation of principles of natural justice.

The proceedings were concluded in "great haste" in fear of a floor test and a presumption on voting, thereby not granting sufficient opportunity to the legislators, he charged.

The petitioners were denied the right to cross-examine certain individuals, including the chief minister and the party whip, the counsel argued.

He said the whips complaint was primarily based on unsubstantiated media reports and extracts of electronic media footage without following the rules of evidence.

The same media reports had also said the MLAs had no intention to go against the party or the government or to voluntarily give up their membership, but the whip had failed to appreciate this aspect, he submitted.

This apart, so far, there was no material to prove that the MLAs intended to act against the party, he added.

On the petitioners meeting the State Governor, he said they would not have resorted to such a course if only the Speaker had initiated action against then rebel leader and now deputy chief minister O Panneerselvam and 10 other MLAs who had voted against the trust vote sought by Palaniswami in February last year.

The speaker was playing politics. If he had issued notice on the petitioner's complaint against Panneerselvam and his supporters, the whole episode could have been avoided, counsel Raman alleged.

He also said there was no legal immunity available to the assembly speaker in the matter as he only functioned as a tribunal under the 10th schedule of the Constitution (anti-defection law) and his orders were as amenable to the judicial review as of any of the inferior tribunals. The arguments would continue tomorrow.