The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked Tamil Nadu Assembly Speaker about why he has not taken any decision on plea to disqualify O. Pannerselvam, the Deputy CM and 10 of his supporters who voted against the Edappadi Government when it moved confidence motion in February 2017.
Acting on an appeal by the DMK, a division bench asked Speaker P Dhanapal to inform it by Feb 14 whether he was going to take action and if so when. A bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde asked: ``Tell us whether you are going to take action, if yes, then when''.
The bench gave this direction after senior Kapil Sibal arguing for the DMK submitted that the Speaker had been sitting on the disqualification petition for three years. The bench noted that it was contrary to the law laid down by another bench headed by Justice FS Nariman in the Manipur Speaker case on Jan 14 last that Speakers of Lok Sabha or State Assemblies should take a decision within a maximum of three months.
Prior to this judgment, a three judge bench of the Madras High Court held in split judgement in April 2028 that no court could not fix time frame for the Speaker. In effect the high court said the court is against Speaker’s studied inaction and it would come into the picture only if and when the Speaker took a decision. Though subject to judicial review, court cannot into the merit of his decision. It could only see if he had given a reasonable opportunity to legislators facing action to explain their action.
The DMK went appeal against this to the apex court.
The irony was that incumbent CM O Pannerselvam rebelled after VS Sasikala forced him out of office and installed Edappadi as Chief Minister with the support of 122 MLAs who was expected to keep the chair warm till her nephew TTV Dinakaran got elected to the Assembly.
Eventually, Sasikala went in jail and Dinakaran got elected with the support of Edappadi and others. However, on advice of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, OPS and EPS groups merged in August 2017 and the reunited AIADMK general council approved the merger. Following which, the Election Commission recognised the reunited faction as official. Eighteen pro- Dinakaran MLAs petitioned the Governor to change the Chief Minister.
The Governor instead forwarded the petition to the Speaker who after due notice disqualified them while keeping pending a similar petition against Pannerselvam and Co. As Kapil Sibal has pointed out, the term of the Assembly will end in May 2021.
Whatever the eventual verdict may be, it will be only a talking for the DMK in the coming elections.