Big win for Edappadi Palaniswami at Madras High Court; Panneerselvam suffers jolt

Court refuses to interfere with AIADMK general council resolutions and general secretary election; post-verdict, party announces that Palaniswami was elected unopposed as its general secretary

March 28, 2023 11:27 am | Updated March 29, 2023 11:11 am IST - CHENNAI

Supporters of AIADMK leader Edappadi K. Palaniswami celebrate the Madras High Court order favouring him in party leadership case, at AIADMK headquarters in Royapettah, Chennai on March 28, 2023

Supporters of AIADMK leader Edappadi K. Palaniswami celebrate the Madras High Court order favouring him in party leadership case, at AIADMK headquarters in Royapettah, Chennai on March 28, 2023 | Photo Credit: R. Ragu

The Madras High Court on Tuesday rejected all interim applications filed by AIADMK expelled leaders O. Panneerselvam (OPS), P.H. Manoj Pandian, R. Vaithilingam and J.C.D. Prabhakar to restrain the party from implementing its July 11, 2022 general council resolutions and the consequent notification issued on March 17 for general secretary election.

Following the court verdict, the AIADMK announced former Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami (EPS) was elected unopposed as its general secretary.

Justice K. Kumaresh Babu held the July 11 resolutions which abolished the posts of Coordinator and Joint Coordinator, revived the post of general secretary to be elected by primary members and appointed Mr. Palaniswami as interim general secretary till the conduct of elections were prima facie valid and therefore do not call for any interference.

He also refused to interfere with the notification issued by the party on March 17 for the conduct of the election and paved way for Mr. Palaniswami to be declared elected as the general secretary. The party had given an undertaking to the court on March 19 that it shall not declare the results of the election until the disposal of the present applications.

Power to amend bylaws

Authoring a 85-page verdict, the judge said, the general council of the party was fully authorised to amend its bylaws. It was in exercise of such a power, as many as 2,460 out of 2,655 members of the general council had met in Chennai on July 11, 2022 and amended the party’s constitution abolishing dual leadership and reviving unitary leadership.

Though the applicants before the court had contended that such revival was against a 2017 resolution through which former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa was declared the eternal general secretary of the party, the judge said, these issues could be decided only during the hearing of the four civil suits and not at the stage of considering interim applications.

Justice Babu also rejected the argument that only the Coordinator and Joint Coordinator could represent the AIADMK. He recalled that even during the first round of litigation, the Supreme Court had taken note that Mr. Panneerselvam and Mr. Palaniswami “do not stand in jointness or even togetherness so as to work cohesively as a unit.”

Infraction of bylaws

The judge, however, prima facie found infraction of the party bylaws with respect to a special resolution through which the four leaders had been expelled from the primary membership of the party without any notice. He pointed out that Rule 6 of the bylaws clearly require issuance of a seven days’ prior notice before initiating the disciplinary action.

Despite finding a prima facie case in favour of the expelled leaders at least with respect to their expulsion, the judge refused to injunct the party from giving effect to the special resolution by stating that the balance of convenience was in favour of the party which feared that their inclusion might end up being detrimental to its interests.

While the applicants had contended that the balance of convenience was in favour of them since they would be deprived of contesting in intra-party elections besides representing the AIADMK in the legislative Assembly if the injunction was not granted, the party had argued that people who had “ransacked the party headquarters” could not be admitted back.

“For deciding the balance of convenience, this court has to take a call as to whether a grant or refusal to grant injunction in favour of one party or the other would cause irreparable injury or damage to the party. In the case on hand... I do not find any balance of convenience or irreparable injury in favour of the applicants to grant injunction,” he wrote.

Within minutes after the judge pronounced his orders, the third Division Bench of Justices R. Mahadevan and Mohammed Shaffiq accepted a request made by senior counsel C. Manishankar and Abdul Saleem to hear their original side appeals on Wednesday. The judges agreed to take up the appeals if they get numbered by Tuesday evening.

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