Hearing on the 18 AIADMK MLAs’ disqualification case gathered steam on Tuesday, the second day of arguments, with Justice M. Sathyanarayanan, the third judge of Madras High Court dealing with the case in view of a split verdict delivered by two judges on June 14, throwing several pointed questions. His questions revolved around the issue of whether the AIADMK existed as an entity when the disqualification proceedings were held between August 24 and September 18 last year.

During the course of his day-long arguments, senior counsel Mohan Parasaran, representing 12 of the 18 disqualified MLAs, questioned how the Chief Government Whip S. Rajendiran could have lodged a complaint against them to the Speaker on a letter head of the AIADMK on August 24. He pointed out that the Election Commission had frozen the party’s name AIADMK as well as its ‘two leaves’ symbol on March 22, 2017, and that order was in operation till November 23, 2017.

Contrary to the usage of the AIADMK letter head by the complainant, Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami had offered his comments, in his capacity as the leader of the legislature party, to the Speaker on August 30 on a letter head which read: AIADMK (Amma, Puratchi Thalaivi Amma). This makes it crystal clear that the original party AIADMK had gone into eclipse during that period. Therefore, the question of defecting from that party would not arise at all, Mr. Parasaran contended.

However, the judge pointed out that the Chief Minister had used a letter head to indicate that he represents both the factions or groups. “In a sense, he probably wanted to claim it is the real AIADMK,” the judge said. Making a short intervention at this moment, senior counsel C.S. Vaidyanathan, representing Mr. Palaniswami, said even the 18 MLAs had identified themselves as AIADMK members during the entire proceedings, and therefore, it was farcical to question the existence of the AIADMK as an entity.

AIADMK candidates

Immediately, senior counsel P.S. Raman, representing six of the disqualified MLAs, said his clients had identified themselves as AIADMK members because they had been elected to the Assembly as candidates of that party. It was then the judge posed a significant question: “Assuming a trust vote had to be conducted during that period, is it your case that the Assembly could not have been convened at all until the Election Commission decided the dispute finally?”

Mr. Parasaran answered it in the negative. “That is independent. The floor test could have been held dehors the Election Commission proceedings,” he replied. When the judge wanted to know whether the issue of the party being in suspended animation was raised before the Speaker during the disqualification proceedings, the senior counsel said it was raised and the Speaker had specifically rejected it by stating that the reference to the EC proceedings was a “futile attempt.”

Further, accusing the Speaker of having relied upon extraneous materials while passing the disqualification order without serving copies of those materials on the 18 MLAs, Mr. Parasaran, in a lighter vein, said: “Luckily, the impugned order (disqualifying them) was served on us.” The court went into splits on hearing this and immediately, the judge quipped: “Even that was not served on them on September 18. They had to download it from the Internet. That’s what Mr. Raman argued.”

Since both Mr. Parasaran and Mr. Raman concluded their arguments on behalf of the 18 MLAs by the end of the day, senior counsel C. Aryama Sundaram, representing the Speaker, said that he would commence his counter arguments on Wednesday but was not sure of completing it on the same day. He took the judge’s permission to take a break on Thursday alone, since he had a case to attend in the Supreme Court, and then continue his arguments on Friday.

Though the judge had a conference to attend in New Delhi on Friday, he had cancelled it for the hearing of the present case. After Mr. Sundaram completes his arguments on Friday, the judge would fix a date for hearing Mr. Vaidyanathan.

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