Chennai: The future of the AIADMK government in Tamil Nadu may be known on Monday when the Madras High Court takes up again the petition by the party's 18 rebel MLAs challenging their disqualification.
Posting the matter for October 9, Justice K. Ravichandra Babu asked all the sides to be present and not to seek any adjournment.
The judge also ruled that the previous orders -- barring a floor test by Chief Minister K. Palaniswami and conduct of fresh by-elections in 18 constituencies notified by the Speaker to the Election Commission -- will continue till the case was decided.
Congress leader and Supreme Court advocate Ahishesk Manu Singhvi, representing the camp of dissident AIADMK leader T.T.V. Dinakaran, told the court that the Speaker acted in a partisan manner by taking action against the 18 MLAs.
"We had only gone to the Governor seeking a change of Chief Minister and had never voted against the government on the floor of the House," he said. The Speaker breached the Constitution by holding the MLAs guilty under the anti-defection law.
He demanded to know why the same Speaker had not yet acted against MLAs belonging to former Chief Minister and present Deputy Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam when they voted against Chief Minister Palaniswami in a trust vote in February.
The lawyer representing the rebel MLAs said they were not even served disqualification orders and that they came to know about it through television channels.
"There were no legal proceedings conducted by the Speaker and rules of natural justice were not applied to the MLAs. Even their disqualification was not conveyed to them before the media and official gazette published it," he argued.
Another senior counsel, Aryama Sundaram, who appeared for the Speaker, said the Speaker had filed a detailed counter affidavit strongly denying all the allegations made against him and contended that there was no denial of natural justice.
The Speaker had clearly stated that time was given to the MLAs several times to respond. "We will argue the case when our turn comes," he said.
In a related case, DMK Whip Chakrapani questioned why the 12 MLAs belonging to the Panneerselvam camp were not disqualified even though they had voted against the government in February.
Justice Ravichandra Babu posted that matter to October 12.
While doing so, he did ask why the Speaker appeared to have been very quick in acting against the 18 pro-Dinakaran MLAs but the other MLAs were left untouched.