India

Stalin’s plea to be heard tomorrow

The Madras High Court Bench will on Wednesday hear a petition filed by DMK president M.K. Stalin seeking to declare as illegal, null and void the Confidence Motion moved by Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami in the Assembly in February 2017.

The tenure of the present Assembly is due to end in about nine months.

Chief Justice Amreshwar Pratap Sahi and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy would be hearing the case along with similar petitions filed by activist ‘Traffic’ K.R. Ramaswamy and T. Analagan, son of former DMK MLA R. Tamaraikani.

These three cases have been listed as part of a batch of cases filed by 21 DMK legislators against the breach of privilege proceedings initiated against them in August 2017.

The confidence motion was declared passed by Speaker P. Dhanapal by way of a voice vote on February 18, 2017, with 122 AIADMK MLAs voting for it.

The present Deputy Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam, who was then heading an AIADMK faction, and 10 other MLAs voted against it.

Writ petition

On February 20, 2017, Mr. Stalin filed a writ petition to declare the passage of the motion illegal. He sought for a consequential direction to the Speaker to conduct the floor test afresh through a secret ballot system under the supervision of Governor’s Secretary, Chief Secretary to the government and a top official from the Election Commission of India.

An advocate K. Ravi too had filed a petition challenging the Speaker’s decision on the ground that keeping the 122 MLAs in a resort and bringing them in buses for voting amounted to electoral bribery. On August 21, 2017, the AIADMK factions led by Mr Panneerselvam and Mr Palaniswami merged.

On August 22, 2017, 19 of the 122 AIADMK MLAs, owing allegiance to erstwhile party leaders Sasikala and T.T.V. Dhinakaran, made a representation to the Governor expressing lack of confidence on the Chief Minister and withdrawing their support to him. They also requested the Governor to institute the constitutional process.

This led to initiation of disqualification proceedings against the 18 MLAs (another MLA had gone back to the AIADMK fold) on August 24, 2017. On August 28, 2017, the Committee of Privileges of the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly issued show cause notices to 21 DMK legislators, including party president Mr. Stalin, for having displayed the banned gutkha sachets in the House on July 19, 2017.

The DMK legislators approached the High Court on September 5, 2017 and claimed that the privilege proceedings were a ploy to keep them out of the Assembly session whenever a fresh floor test was conducted.

Though all cases were listed before the then first Division Bench of Chief Justice Indira Banerjee (now a Supreme Court judge) and Justice M. Sundar, the Bench heard the 18 MLAs disqualification batch of cases first. They reserved orders on January 23, 2018.

Only in March this year, the first Bench fixed a date for hearing in the case filed by Mr. Stalin.

COVID-19 impact

However, the COVID-19 outbreak disrupted regular functioning of courts.

Now, the cases related to the privilege proceedings have been listed on Wednesday at the request of Advocate-General Vijay Narayan and along with them the cases regarding motion of confidence have also been tagged.

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