Setback for Edappadi Palaniswami as Madras HC orders status quo ante as on June 23 with respect to AIADMK leadership 

Court orders conduct of a fresh general council to decide upon the future leadership of the party 

Updated - August 18, 2022 01:30 pm IST

Published - August 17, 2022 12:11 pm IST - CHENNAI:

Supporters of O. Panneerselvam react after the Madras High Court order, near his residence at Greenways Road, in Chennai on Wednesday, August 17, 2022.

Supporters of O. Panneerselvam react after the Madras High Court order, near his residence at Greenways Road, in Chennai on Wednesday, August 17, 2022. | Photo Credit: M. Karunakaran

In a sudden turn of fortunes, All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) leader Edappadi K. Palaniswami (EPS) suffered a serious setback on Wednesday with the Madras High Court declaring as void ab initio (having no legal effect) the July 11 general council meeting in which he got elected as interim general secretary and the other leader O. Panneerselvam was expelled from the primary membership of the party.

Justice G. Jayachandran ordered status quo ante as on June 23 and held that no executive council or general council meet of the party should be conducted henceforth without the joint consent of Mr. Panneerselvam and Mr. Palaniswami in their capacities as coordinator and joint coordinator. The orders were passed on petitions filed by Mr. Panneerselvam and general council member P. Vairamuthu against the July 11 meet.

Since the by-laws permit the coordinator and joint coordinator to convene the general council meet anytime, the judge ordered there would not be any impediment for them to conduct such a meet to decide party affairs, including an amendment to the by-laws for restoring unitary leadership instead of the present pattern of dual leadership. A requisition for such a meet could also be made by one-fifth of the general council members.

If such requisition was made in a proper format to the coordinator and joint coordinator, the two office-bearers should not refuse to convene the meet, the judge ordered. The meeting should be convened within 30 days of receipt of the requisition and a 15-day advance notice in writing should also be given to all the general council members since the by-laws demand adherence to such meticulous procedures.

In case the coordinator and the joint coordinator were of the opinion that, for any reason, further direction was required for conducting the general council meeting or that they need assistance of a court-appointed commissioner for conducting the meet, it would be open to them to approach the court and seek necessary relief, the judge clarified.

‘Fallacious claim’

Justice Jayachandran termed “fallacious” the claim of Mr. Palaniswami that the posts of party coordinator and joint coordinator held by Mr. Panneerselvam and himself respectively had lapsed and stood vacated on June 23 since the general council which met on that day did not ratify the executive council’s December 2021 decision to get party leaders elected to those two posts through voting by primary members.

He pointed out the draft resolutions for the June 23 meet did not indicate there was any proposal for such ratification. “The party constitution also does not require ratification of their election by the general council,” he wrote. Stating that the two leaders had been jointly elected unopposed by the primary members in December 2021, the judge said, their five-year tenure would come to an end only on December 3, 2026.

Even if it was assumed that the 2021 decision of the executive council had to be ratified by the general council, still Mr. Panneerselvam and Mr. Palaniswami would continue as coordinator and joint coordinator till September 11, 2022 in view of the September 2017 election to those posts by the general council of the party. Therefore, an argument creating an illusion as if the two posts had lapsed would not stand any test of reasoning, the judge said.

‘Document interpolated’

Citing the reasons for declaring the July 11 meet as void ab initio, Justice Jayachandran said, Mr. Palaniswami had “interpolated” a document related to the June 23 general council meet to make it appear as if, on that day, 2,190 out of 2,665 general council members requested for another meet on July 11. The judge pointed out that the written requisition by them had been fully typed except for one sentence which had been handwritten and inserted.

That crucial sentence requested for convening the next general council meet. All 2,190 members had affixed their signatures in the annexure to the requisition and some of them had signed on June 20 itself as rightly pointed out by senior counsel Guru Krishnakumar, P.H. Arvindh Pandian and A.K. Sriram representing the petitioners before the court, the judge said. On the other hand, Mr. Palaniswami had affirmed on oath that the requisition was given only on June 23.

In view of the contradictions, the judge concluded that the alleged requisition had been prepared much prior to the June 23 meeting and was addressed to the presidium chairman, coordinator as well as the joint coordinator though the former had no authority to receive it. He also said, there was no evidence to prove that both the coordinator and joint coordinator had received that requisition. Further, the requirement of 15-day written notice had also not been complied with, he added.

The court also found that only the coordinator and joint coordinator had the authority to convene the general council meet and therefore the convening of the July 11 meeting, without their joint consent, was illegal.

‘No quantifiable data’

The judge further said, there was no quantifiable data to prove Mr. Palaniswami’s claim that 95% of the 1..5 crore primary members of the party were in favour of unitary leadership and that their aspirations were reflected by the general council members who were none but representatives of the primary members. “Whether the views of 2,655 members really reflects the view of 1.5 crore primary members are questions to be examined and tested,” he wrote.

Recalling that the dual leadership in the party had been able to successfully run the State government for 4.5 years between 2017 and 2021 despite various speculations and that the coordinator and joint coordinator had even jointly selected party candidates for various elections during the period, the judge wondered: “While so, how suddenly between June 20 and July 1 this year, the party decided to have a change in dispensation?”

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