The Supreme Court today said it would examine whether a decision taken by the Speaker of the House can be subjected to judicial review. The remark by the apex court came as it was dealing with the issue of the February 18 trust vote in the Tamil Nadu assembly won by Chief Minister E K Palaniswami, which has come under challenge. "What decision a Speaker takes, is it subject to judicial review," asked a three-judge bench headed by Justice Dipak Misra while hearing a plea filed by AIADMK MLA K Pandiarajan, considered close to former chief minister O Panneerselvam, seeking to set aside the trust vote. At the outset, Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar sought time to file written submissions in the matter. "I am requesting that the matter be listed for hearing after two weeks so that I can give a written note to the court," Kumar told the bench which also comprised Justices Amitava Roy and A M Khanwilkar. Senior advocate Gopal Subramanium, who was representing Pandiarajan, referred to a verdict passed by a constitutional court of South Africa and said the sanctity of the assembly can be preserved only by the Speaker. He also argued that the representation given by the MLAs to the Speaker in the matter was still pending. The bench, after a brief hearing, posted the matter for August 9 and directed that a copy of the petition be served to Tamil Nadu's counsel also. Attorney General K K Venugopal had last week recused himself from the matter saying he had given legal opinion to the AIADMK faction led by Panneerselvam. The apex court had earlier sought the Attorney General's assistance to examine the plea after the petitioner had claimed that MLAs had voted in the trust vote under distress and members of opposition were evicted by the marshals from the assembly. Subramanium had earlier said that there should have been a secret ballot but Tamil Nadu Speaker P Dhanapal had rejected this demand from MLAs during the trust vote. The AIADMK MLA has challenged the decision and sought a direction for quashing the Speaker's decision rejecting their demand to determine the outcome of the floor test. The petitioner has also sought the setting aside of all consequential actions including the February 18 resolution of the Assembly "expressing confidence in favour of council of ministers headed by Edappadi K Palaniswami, as the same are illegal, capricious, discriminatory and violative of the principle of 'secrecy' which is the essence of democracy, free and fair elections..." He has also sought a direction to the Speaker to conduct a fresh floor test through a secret ballot in the presence of "independent and impartial" observers nominated by the Supreme Court. On February 18, jailed AIADMK general secretary V K Sasikala-loyalist E K Palaniswami had won the trust vote with an easy 122-11 margin. He was helped by the eviction of the main opposition DMK and a walkout by its allies, amid stormy scenes during which mikes were uprooted, chairs toppled and sheets of papers torn and hurled around. Pandiarajan has claimed that 122 MLAs belonging to AIADMK were "forcibly held hostage" at a Tamil Nadu resort from February 8 till right before the voting on February 18. He has said Panneerselvam had given a representation on February 19 to Tamil Nadu governor, requesting him not to approve the February 18 resolution and urged him to fix another date for a fresh vote of confidence by secret ballot.
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