CHENNAI: In continuing uncertainity for Tamil Nadu Chief Minister E Palaniswami, the Madras High Court today said that floor test should not be conducted till further orders. It said that a final decision on the matter will be taken in the next hearing on October 4.
The court’s ruling came during a hearing on a batch of petitions challenging Speaker P Dhanapal’s order disqualifying 18 rebel lawmakers of the ruling AIADMK. Though the court did not put on hold the Speaker’s order, it directed against issuing a poll notification for the 18 Assembly seats, which fell vacant due to the disqualification of the dissident lawmakers.
Eight of the 18 legislators had moved court on Tuesday, challenging their disqualification by the Speaker a day before, under the anti-defection law. The rebel lawmakers said the speaker’s move was “illegal” since no whip was issued.
The legislator’s disqualifiction, however, insured the EPS government against any embarassment if the ruling AIADMK government had to prove its majority in a floor test, as demanded by the main opposition party the DMK.
The DMK had also petitioned the court to order Governor C Vidyasagar Rao to convene the assembly and ask Chief Minister Palaniswami to prove his majority after the legislator’s row, claiming that the ruling party has lost majority.
Welcoming the court’s order, DMK spokesperson A Saravanan said, “It’s not a setback but a victory for democracy. It has defeated the EPS government’s plan to disqualify them (rebel MLAs) and call for a floor test to make a backdoor entry to govern the state”.
Sources close to the disqualified rebel MLAs say they are not disappointed as the order insures their seats till the verdict.
Dushant Dave, the counsel for the rebel lawmakers, said the disqualification under the anti-defection law is illegal. He argued that though the MLAs had withdrawn support to Chief Minister Palaniswami and sought his replacement, they remained in the party and did not withdraw support, which they had clarified in a letter to the Governor. He also cited a similar case in the neighbouring Karnataka where the court had ultimately quashed the disqualification of MLAs by the Karnataka Speaker.
Mr Dave also argued that the Speaker did not disqualify the 12 legislators who had voted against the EPS government along with former chief minister O Panneerselvam during the floor test in February.
In the 234-member state assembly, Chief Minister Palaniswami has the support of 113 lawmakers. In case of a trust vote, the government could fall short of a majority if the 18 rebel lawmakers decide to vote against them. However if the court upholds the disqualification, the government would be well above the 107 half way mark; the total strength then would reduce to 214.