The Madras High Court today resumed its hearing of petitions challenging the disqualification of 18 pro-Dhinakaran MLAs by the Tamil Nadu Assembly Speaker. Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi reiterated the ruling AIADMK chief whip's stand that the MLAs had failed to resolve the internal party issues by approaching appropriate intra- party platforms. Instead, they met the state governor with an intention to topple the government, warranting their disqualification, he submitted. Senior counsel C S Vaidyanathan, representing Chief Minister K Palaniswami, contended that the speaker has powers to disqualify elected legislators under the anti-defection law. The court does not have jurisdiction to hear an appeal against such actions of the speaker, he submitted. Ridiculing the legislators' claim that they met the governor only to vent their grievances against the chief minister, Vaidyanathan wondered, "How can the governor of the state interfere in internal party issues?" On the allegation of inaction by the speaker against Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam and 10 other MLAs for voting against the confidence motion moved by Palaniswami on February 18 last year, the counsel said during that time, there was no order issued by the party whip. "This apart, interim orders passed by election commission were in operation," he submitted. Moreover, Panneerselvam and his group voted against the motion only to express their opposition against V K Sasikala, who was convicted by the Supreme Court in the disproportionate assets case, the counsel said. Later, the chief minister's group also agreed to the stand taken by Panneerselvam, and hence they are united now, he added. Recording the submissions, the first bench of Chief Justice Indira Banerjee and Justice M Sundar posted the pleas to January 10, for further hearing. Sidelined AIADMK leader T T V Dhinakaran had recently won the December 21 R K Nagar bypoll defeating the ruling party's candidate by a margin of over 40,000 votes. He contested as an independent.
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