When parallel sessions unfolded in the Assembly leading to Speaker’s removal

The Tamil Nadu Assembly is known for the stable tenures of Speakers. In its history, only once was its presiding officer removed through a motion. He was K.A. Mathialagan, who was removed in December 1972 by the ruling DMK and its allies. Mathialagan went to the High Court, which, in February 1973, upheld the Assembly’s decision

April 02, 2024 10:38 pm | Updated April 03, 2024 03:04 pm IST

Deceptive calm: Governor K.K. Shah, third from right, hosting a tea party at Raj Bhavan on March 29, 1972. Others seen are Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi, Education Minister V. R. Nedunchezhiyan, Food Minister P.U. Shanmugam, Labour Minister N.V. Natarajan, Speaker K.A. Mathialagan, and MLA Thiruppoor Mohideen.

Deceptive calm: Governor K.K. Shah, third from right, hosting a tea party at Raj Bhavan on March 29, 1972. Others seen are Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi, Education Minister V. R. Nedunchezhiyan, Food Minister P.U. Shanmugam, Labour Minister N.V. Natarajan, Speaker K.A. Mathialagan, and MLA Thiruppoor Mohideen. | Photo Credit: The Hindu Archives

The Tamil Nadu Assembly is known for the stable tenures of Speakers. Ordinarily, the incumbents do not get disturbed. Those who gave up the post were far and few. Among those were J. Sivashanmugam Pillai (1901-75), Tamil Nadu’s first Speaker belonging to the Scheduled Castes, who quit in August 1955 on his appointment as a Member of the Union Public Services Commission (UPSC); Si. Pa. Aditanar (1907-81), who resigned in August 1968 and became Cooperation Minister six months later; K. Kalimuthu (1942-2006) in 2006; and D. Jayakumar (1960-) in 2012.

But, in the history of the State Legislature, only once was its presiding officer getting removed through a motion. That presiding officer was K. A. Mathialagan, and he was thus removed in December1972, when the DMK was in power.

After this incident, there were five other occasions wherein notice for the removal of the Speaker was given by the Opposition. On all the occasions (April 1993 and 1995, August 2006, May 2007, and March 2017), the motions were declared either lost or dropped.

Session after the split

The Assembly met on November 13, 1972, barely a month after the ruling DMK suffered a split following the exit of its treasurer M.G. Ramachandran (MGR). According to a news report published in The Hindu on November 14, 1972, MGR, the leader of the ADMK [at that time, it was the Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam] group, which has been allotted separate seats, took his seat in the front row with other Opposition leaders shortly before 10 a.m. “He greeted the Ministers sitting opposite to him,” the report stated.

The day’s session lasted nearly an hour in which Mathialagan suggested to Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi that he recommend to the Governor to dissolve the Assembly and seek a fresh mandate from people. (Only on March 15, 1971 was the Fifth Assembly constituted). The reason for his suggestion was that an “extraordinary situation” had prevailed in the State that required an “extraordinary solution”.

CM rejects suggestion to dissolve the House

However, the Chief Minister was quick to reject the suggestion, though the Speaker adjourned the House till 10 a.m. on December 5, 1972 to enable Karunanidhi to consider his proposal. Before adjourning the Assembly, Mathialagan informed the members that a notice for a no-confidence motion had been given by two members of the ruling party. The same day, 182 MLAs, belonging to the DMK, the Forward Bloc, the Muslim League, and the Tamil Arasu Kazhagam, urged the Speaker to resign as he had “conducted the proceedings of the Assembly this morning in a manner violating democratic traditions and principles”.

Three days after the House met, Governor K.K. Shah, who assumed office in May 1971, prorogued the session and summoned the House to meet on December 2, 1972. Expectedly, utter confusion prevailed on the D-Day, with two parallel sessions and heated exchanges. The Speaker and the Chief Minister challenged each other to resign and seek re-election. Mathialagan said a no-confidence motion, moved by K.T.K. Thangamani of the CPI and other Opposition members against the Karunanidhi Ministry, would have precedence over another motion against himself.

When the Speaker rejected Leader of the House and Education Minister V. R. Nedunchezhiyan’s request for taking up the motion against the Speaker first, the Minister moved a resolution that Deputy Speaker P. Seenivasan [who defeated Congress leader K. Kamaraj in Virudhunagar in 1967] preside over the House. Later, Seenivasan took the chair placed on the floor in front of the Speaker’s dais.

Bell taken away

When he started conducting the proceedings, protests came from the ADMK, two groups of the Congress and the CPI. As the Speaker banged the bell trying to restore order, Chief Whip T.P. Alagamuthu took away the bell. Eventually, a motion was adopted to remove Mathialagan from the post of Speaker by the ruling party and its allies amid the thumping of desks.

Meanwhile, Mathialagan allowed MGR to speak for 90 minutes on the no-trust motion against the government, though the mike in front of the ADMK leader was silenced. Around 2.30 p.m., the House was adjourned for the day. When Mathialagan and MGR, according to the report of The Hindu on December 3, 1972, were coming out of the Assembly to board their cars, slogans were raised in favour of MGR and against him. A chappal thrown from the first floor fell near the car of MGR, the report added.

Removal notified

A gazette notification was issued, on the night of December 2, on the removal of Mathialagan as the Speaker. On December 4, this newspaper, in its editorial, described the events as a “sad day for democracy”. Mathialagan went to the Madras High Court, challenging his removal. However, the court, in February 1973, upheld the Assembly’s decision. A month later, Mathialagan joined the ADMK, but kept shifting his loyalty between the DMK and the AIADMK for the next 10 years. When he died in August 1983, he was in the DMK.

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