Madras High Court
Wikimedia Commons/Milei.vencel

The Madras High Court on Thursday afternoon (June 14) gave a split verdict on the disqualification of 18 dissident AIADMK MLAs owing allegiance to AMMK leader TTV Dhinakaran.

These AIADMK MLAs had been disqualified under the anti-defection law on a complaint filed by the ruling party's whip. It came after their meeting with the governor wherein they expressed their lack of confidence in Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami.

The two-judge bench consisting of Chief Justice Indira Banerjee and Justice M Sundar delivered a split verdict after hearing the case. While CJ Banerjee upheld the disqualificatiion, Justice Sundar disagreed.

Therefore, the case has now been referred to a larger bench. Justice Huluvadi Ramesh, who is the  one of the senior most judge in the Madras HC will nominate the third judge to hear the case.

The MLA's who had been chucked out of the ruling party by Tamil Nadu Speaker P Dhanapal in September 2017, will stand disqualified from the Assembly till the HC delivers its final verdict.

With this, the effective strength of the 234-member House has come down to 216 (with late CM J Jayalalithaa's seat still vacant). As the half-way mark to remain in power in the state is 109, and CM Palaniswami claims to enjoy the support of 116 MLAs, the ruling party doesn't has much to worry about.

The DMK and its allies have 98 members, including eight from Congress and one of the IUML.

If the third judge decides to rule in favour of the Speaker's decision, the 18 seats that the disqualified lawmaker belongs to will be having bypolls. However, if he or she does not uphold the disqualification, the government or the ruling party will have to undergo a floor test.

The court had earlier directed the government to wait for its verdict before holding bypolls or floor test. 

While today's verdict has brought relief  to the EPS-OPS mereger, it is a huge setback for Dhinakaran as the rebel lawmakers are from the faction of the AIADMK led by him. 

Naturally, today's verdict has not gone down well with Dhinakaran, who was ousted from the AIADMK.

"Only God knows how the same judge (CJ of Madras High court) delivers contradicting verdicts on two similar cases (18 MLAs disqualification in TN and 3 MLAs disqualification in Puducherry)," said Sasikala nephew Dinakaran, reporetd Indian Express.