In a big boost to embattled AIADMK leader O Panneerselvam, the Madras High Court on Wednesday ordered maintenance of the status quo as of June 23 in the affairs of AIADMK.
Justice G Jayachandran passed the orders on petitions filed by OPS and a General Council member P Vairamuthu challenging the legality and highlighting the violation of the party’s bylaws in convening and holding the crucial July 11 GC meeting, in which, former Tamil Nadu chief minister Edappadi K Palaniswami was elected as interim general secretary.
The Judge said the coordinator and joint coordinator can convene a fresh general council meeting in the presence of a commissioner to oversee the conduct of the event.
Since the status quo was ordered, the election of EPS as interim general secretary gets nullified, thereby, dashing his hopes of becoming regular general secretary through voting within four months, as decided by the July 11 GC.
During the hearing, senior counsels, Guru Krishnakumar, PH Arvindh Pandian and AK Sriram representing OPS and Vairamuthu basically questioned the legality of sending the notice to the GC by the headquarters office-bearers and the absence of a 15-day gap between the notice and actual meeting.
They said that a ‘purported lapse’ was made to appear and an “artificial stalemate” was created in the party. There was no question of headquarters office-bearers running the party affairs because there was no vacancy.
“An attempt is made to make a small body (GC) to project the will of the entire party,” Guru Krishnakumar said, adding that the function of the general secretary, in whose absence, the coordinator and joint coordinator is to give effect to the decisions of the executive committee.
Arvindh Pandian argued that the presidium chairman can only conduct the GC meeting and not convene it. There is no window in Rule 19 or 20 of the bylaws to convene the meeting by any person other than the general secretary or coordinator and joint coordinator.
He also faulted the amendment made on contesting for the general secretary post as the contesting member requires his nomination proposed and seconded by ten district secretaries each- that is half of the party in the State.
Only the members shall either propose or second the nomination of fellow a member to contest the election to the general secretary post, he noted.
However, appearing for EPS, former Advocate General (AG) Vijay Narayan, SR Rajagopal and Narmadha Sampath contended that there were no illegalities or violations of the party code in calling the meeting.
The actual announcement of the meeting was made on the floor of the June 23 GC meeting by the presidium chairperson and the invitation was sent by the headquarters office-bearers since the posts of coordinator and joint coordinator lapsed as the decision of the executive committee (EC) taken in December 2021 to hold the election to the posts and that too by a single ballot was not ratified by the subsequent GC meeting.
They further pointed out that in the past too, the GC meeting was convened by the headquarters office-bearers.
To the contention of the OPS side, that the general secretary of the party shall be elected only by the primary members and the bylaw dealing with this can not at all be tinkered with, the EPS’ counsels replied that the decision to have an interim general secretary and bringing back the position of general secretary was taken on the basis of the ‘collective will’ of the party cadre.
It may be noted that another judge Justice Krishnan Ramasamy had refused to interfere with the party’s affairs when he rejected the plea of OPS’s supporters to restrain the party from passing resolutions other than 23 approved ones at the June 23 GC meeting.
However, after a late-night sitting to hear an appeal, a division bench of Justices M Duraiswamy and Justice Sunder Mohan, barred the GC from transacting business other than the pre-approved resolutions. But EPS camp called for the next GC on July 11.
Krishnan Ramasamy again heard the petitions, particularly the interim applications of OPS and Vairamuthu challenging the July 11 meeting, but dismissed them saying the GC is vested with the powers to alter any bylaws and majority opinion prevails in democracy.
When the matter reached the apex court, it refused to grant a stay on July 11 meeting but reverted the matter to High Court.
Justice Krishnan Ramasamy became furious when OPS side advocates sought a change of bench to hear afresh the petitions. However, he left it to be decided by the Chief Justice who directed Justice Jayachandran to hear the matter.
During arguments, the judge had raised several pertinent queries on the legality and the adherence to the party bylaws in convening and conducting the meeting, besides questioning the restoration of the general secretary posts after it was avowed that the post would remain eternal as occupied by late leader J Jayalalithaa.