Supreme Court stays Madras HC order on AIADMK leadership row

The Supreme Court on Wednesday stayed the Madras High Court order restraining the passing of any unannounced resolutions in the meeting of the AIADMK general and executive councils concerning the issue of single leadership of the party.

The apex court order virtually comes as a shot in the arm for the dominant Edappadi K Palaniswami (EPS) camp which is aggressively pushing for the single leadership to be helmed by him.

The top court also clarified that the General Council (GC) of the AIADMK which is to take place on July 11, 2022, may proceed in accordance with the law.

The EPS camp was upbeat with the apex court order as the June 23 GC was all about the leadership subject, as witnessed in the events that unfolded. All the 23 resolutions supposed to be taken up that day were rejected.

The June 23 GC also decided to meet again on July 11, ostensibly to elect Palaniswami as the single leader of the party, in line with the demand of 2,190 GC members out of the total 2,665 favoring such a meeting to elect a single leader.

The high court order had come on the plea filed by AIADMK coordinator O Panneerselvam to stall the conduct of the party general council meeting by the Palaniswami faction in Chennai on July 11.

Wednesday’s order of the apex court staying the high court directive came on the appeal filed by Palaniswami, the former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister.

A vacation bench of Justices Dinesh Maheshwari and Krishna Murari issued notices to AIADMK general council member M Shanmugam and Panneerselvam who is a party coordinator.

“Notice be issued to respondents, returnable in two weeks. In view of the facts and circumstances of the case and subject matter of litigation and high court orders, it is considered appropriate that operation and effect of order June 23, 2022, shall remain stayed,” the bench said.

“At present, we do not consider it necessary to pass any other orders of an interim nature. It is made clear that the pendency of these petitions in this court could not be of any impediment in Single Judge dealing with civil suits examining prayer for any other interim relief or pass any other order as needed for facts and circumstances of the case,” the the bench said.

The apex court observed that the high court bench exceeded its jurisdiction by passing a stay order at the general council meeting.

Senior advocate CS Vaidyanathan, appearing for Palaniswami, submitted that contempt petitions have been initiated for the party meeting held after which the apex court agreed to examine the matter.

Senior advocate Maninder Singh, appearing for Shanmugam, submitted that the single bench, which had refused to stay at the general council meeting, did not record any reason in the order.

Panneerselvam had moved the Madras High Court with a civil suit to stall the conduct of the party general council meeting by the Palaniswami faction here on July 11.

The high court division bench had held an extraordinary sitting last midnight and passed the order at 4 am on June 23.

The court had ruled that no unannounced resolutions could be taken up at the meeting of the AIADMK general and executive councils here, restraining the camp led by joint coordinator Palaniswami from initiating any such move over the possible single leadership issue.

The meeting of Tamil Nadu’s main opposition party’s General Council, its highest decision-making body, and the Executive was held on June 23.

In a late-night hearing that stretched until early June 23, a special division bench had granted the relief to Panneerselvam at a special sitting held at the senior judge’s residence at Anna Nagar in the city, on an appeal against a single judge order.

It had said that the meeting can take place as scheduled and the already decided 23 resolutions can be taken up and adopted.

No other new resolutions touching upon making amendments to party bye-laws to abolish Co-ordinator and Joint Co-ordinator posts and restoring the general secretary post to pave way for single leadership shall be taken up, the High Court had said.

Earlier at around 9 pm on June 22, a single-judge bench of the High Court in its brief order permitted the conduct of the meeting but refrained from restraining the Palaniswami group from taking up any other fresh resolutions, which would ultimately result in unitary leadership .

The aggrieved group led by Paneeerselvam met High Court Chief Justice MN Bhandari after the order of the single judge was pronounced and obtained his permission to prefer an appeal against the order.

The CJ constituted a bench of Justice M Duraiswamy and Sundar Mohan as the judges to hold a special sitting and hear the appeal.

Accordingly, the bench sat at the senior judge’s residence and began the hearing around 1 am on June 23 and passed its orders around 4 am, which effectively led to joy and jubilation in the Paneerselvam camp.

The internal rumblings of the AIADMK over the single leadership issue, with a majority of district secretaries and others favoring Palaniswami to take over the mantle, had prompted Panneerselvam to write to the former seeking deferring the meet, even as speculations were rife that the GC and EC could discuss the matter to affect the unitary leadership.

On June 23, the meeting was held amid chaos and the AIADMK General Council announced that the one and only demand of the GC members is to bring in a system of a single leadership for the party, favoring Joint Coordinator Palaniswami.

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