The Madras High Court today delivered a split verdict on a batch of petitions challenging the disqualification of 18 dissident AIADMK MLAs owing allegiance to AMMK leader TTV Dhinakaran.
While Chief Justice Indira Banerjee favoured upholding Speaker P Dhanapal’s decision to disqualify the dissident MLAs, Justice Sundar disagreed to it.
As a result, the cases would be referred to a third judge who would pronounce his opinion. The majority view would be considered the judgement.
Had the verdict gone either way, the government would have been in trouble. If the disqualification had been upheld, byelections would been held in 18 constituencies and the DMK winning them would have reduced the Edappadi K Palaniswami government to a minority.
The court was hearing a clutch of petitions challenging Speaker P Dhanapal’s decision last September to disqualify the MLAs after they withdrew support to the AIADMK government led by Palaniswami and his deputy, O Panneerselvam. The MLAs are backing independent MLA Dinakaran, who was sacked from AIADMK.
The AIADMK has 116 MLAs in the 234-seat House (including the Speaker). The Opposition has a strength of 98, including 89 MLAs of DMK, eight of Congress and one of the IUML.
The senior-most judge after her will decide the third judge who would hear the matter afresh, Justice Banerjee said. The split verdict has come as a big relief to the AIADMK government headed by Palaniswami as any possible threat to its stability has been averted for now.