Tamil Nadu: DMK shifts trust vote battle to Madras High Court

TN CM Edappadi Palaniswami has trumped his AIADMK rival O Panneerselvam by winning the trust vote in the assembly, but the Opposition DMK’s moves ensure that the legal battle is far from over

Photo R Senthil Kumar/PTI
Photo R Senthil Kumar/PTI

R Venkataraman

In the Edappadi Palaniswami (EPS) vs O Panneerselvam (OPS) tussle for power in Tamil Nadu, the former has won the trust vote in the assembly but the legal battle is far from over. The main Opposition party Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) has already moved the Madras High Court on February 20, seeking to declare the vote of confidence null and void. The court has set 27 February 2017 for further hearings but with the court asking for video clips of the entire episode, the issue is set to take a legal turn.

Although there are no Constitutional questions involved as the Constitution does not lay down any written procedure for the conduct of an assembly by a Speaker, the issue involved is a procedural one which could be settled by the high court, or eventually by the Supreme Court should there be an appeal.

The DMK’s contention that secret ballot method should have been adopted during confidence motion on EPS may not cut much ice, but the procedural issue of procedure of first adjourning the house and then again bringing the same motion, might.

According to retired judge Justice Vallinayagam, while speaking to a Tamil news channel after DMK approached the court, the procedural issue would be covered under the General Clauses Law in the absence of a legal provision, and once there was an adjournment on a motion, it could not be taken up again in the same session. He said a new session should have been convened. The Speaker of Tamil Nadu assembly P Dhanapal adjourned the House twice during the confidence vote. So it cannot be taken up in the same session, opined Justice Vallinayagam. Echoing this, the former Speaker of the state legislative assembly Sedappatti Muthiah too has said that the procedure adopted was wrong and hence justiciable.

As soon the legislative assembly assembled on the motion of confidence, pandemonium prevailed over the proceedings, according to the Speaker, whose shirt was torn and mike broken, forcing him to adjourn the House. When it reassembled, the entire Opposition DMK members were evicted from the House and after the second adjournment, EPS was declared to have won the confidence motion. A former legislator Pazha Nedumaran has said that the assembly rules do not provide for “secret ballot” method on a confidence motion, unlike the election for the post of President of India or Rajya Sabha members, in which state legislators vote in secret ballot boxes. Nedumaran said the confidence vote could be conducted either by way of voice vote or ‘hand showing’ or block-wise voting. In the instant case, the last method was adopted.

The turns the legal battle will take start from February 27. Meanwhile, the political battle continues, with the DMK conducting hunger strikes in many parts of the state.

This article was updated at 6.45 pm on February 23 to reflect the winner of the TN assembly trust vote, in the second last para.

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Published: 23 Feb 2017, 6:35 PM