CHENNAI: In a seesaw of fortunes, a division bench of Madras High Court consisting of Justices M Duraiswamy and Sunder Mohan delivered a verdict in favour of former Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami on the conduct of July 11 general council (GC) meeting of AIADMK.
The bench on Friday set aside the single judge’s order nullifying the July 11 GC meeting in which EPS was elected interim general secretary of the party.
The division bench’s order is considered a setback to embattled leader O Panneerselvam who is left with no other option but to challenge the order before the Supreme Court.
The single judge (Justice G Jayachandran), in his verdict on August 17, 2022, ordered status quo ante as on June 23 in AIADMK affairs; thereby making the election of EPS as interim general secretary at the July 11 GC, which, he found to have not been convened by following the party bylaws, ineffective. It brought back the earlier arrangement of coordinator and joint coordinator posts.
He also ruled that only the coordinator and the joint coordinator do have the powers to convene the GC meeting and they can jointly convene a fresh GC meeting to decide on the single leadership issue by following the relevant party bylaws. And if any problems arise, they are at liberty to approach the court for assistance and a commissioner may be appointed to supervise the conduct of the meeting.
During hearing of appeals, a battery of senior counsels-CS Vaidyanathan, Aryama Sundaram and Vijay Narayan-argued the case for EPS. Vaidyanathan said it was not even the prayer of O Panneerselvam for status quo, yet the court ordered for it. It’s rather extraordinary. The order suffers from error in approach.
Saying that the plaintiff (OPS) has a ‘suspect motive’ in filing the suit against July 11 general council meeting, in which, EPS was elected interim general secretary, he blamed him of acting in ‘personal avarice’ to further his interests and not representing the interests of 1.50 crore party members.
Aryama Sundaram blamed the single judge of approaching the matter by applying the ‘company law principles’.
Referring to the nullification of the July 11 GC meeting and its decisions, he said since the coordinator and joint coordinator have had problems, the GC cannot be put in ‘deactivated mode’.
All the three counsels stressed that the GC is the supreme body, which is representative in nature, and whose decisions are ‘final and binding’ on all the members of the party and sufficient time gap was given before holding the July 11 GC meeting which was convened by the competent persons of the party.
However, senior counsels Guru Krishnakumar, PH Arvindh Pandian and AK Sriram representing OPS and a GC member P Vairamuthu, stated that there was no vacancy in the coordinator and joint coordinator posts caused by way of any sort of suspension but an impression was created as if there is vacancy.
They pointed out that the bylaw of the party affirms that the general secretary shall be elected by the primary members and such bylaw was particularly made by the party founder MG Ramachandran (MGR) and it cannot be altered.
The counsels for OPS emphasised that the bylaws were not followed in convening and holding the GC meeting which was struck down by the order of the single judge.
Calling the defence of EPS as ‘sham’, Guru Krishnakumar reiterated that the election of coordinator and joint coordinator need not be ratified by the GC.