The Madras High Court on Wednesday reserved orders on interim applications taken out by expelled AIADMK leaders O. Panneerselvam, P.H. Manoj Pandian, R. Vaithilingam and J.C.D. Prabhakhar to restrain the party from giving effect to the resolutions passed by the general council on July 11, 2022 with regard to their expulsion and other issues.
Justice K. Kumaresh Babu deferred his decision after holding a special sitting on Wednesday, a holiday for the High Court in view of Telugu New Year, to hear marathon arguments advanced by Senior Counsel C.S. Vaidyanathan, Vijay Narayan, Guru Krishnakumar, C. Manishankar, Abdul Saleem and A.K. Sriram for about seven hours.
Mr. Panneerselvam was the last to approach the court, challenging the resolutions as well as the consequent election to the post of general secretary. His civil suit and the interim applications were listed for admission only on Wednesday, and Senior Counsel Krishnakumar argued at length, stressing the need for an interim injunction.
Identifying himself as the coordinator and treasurer of the party, Mr. Panneerselvam wanted the court to stay the operation of a special resolution through which he was expelled from the party, and other resolutions on abolishing the posts of Coordinator and Joint Coordinator and reviving the post of general secretary.
The other plaintiffs, too, had made similar prayers. The Senior Counsel argued that Mr. Panneerselvam was a pre-eminent leader who had played a stellar role in the party for decades, and he could not be chucked out without any notice and opportunity of a hearing. “This is an extremely arbitrary, unreasonable and unconscionable decision,” he said.
Noting that he was elected by primary members as coordinator of the party for five years in 2021, the counsel said the plaintiff’s civil right to continue in the post till 2026 had been affected by the resolutions. “The general council does not have the carte blanche to do anything it wants. They can’t do anything just by claiming majority,” he argued.
Mr. Saleem, representing Mr. Pandian, said the court should not look into the counter-affidavit filed by Edappadi K. Palaniswami in his capacity as interim general secretary, “since such post does not exist. When there is no counter, it must be construed that the grounds raised by me have not been refuted, and hence, injunction must be granted”.
Mr. Manishankar, appearing for Mr. Vaithilingam, said the party’s bylaws did not contain any provision to expel the coordinator. If Mr. Palaniswami was not willing to continue in the position of joint coordinator, then the only way out for the party was to appoint some other individual as joint coordinator and then take decisions, he added.
Appearing for Mr. Prabhakar, Mr. Sriram said his client’s right to be a member of the party had ben taken away in a wrongful way. Stating that he had been expelled from primary membership without even a pretence of an inquiry, the Senior Counsel argued that the balance of convenience was in favour of granting the injunction.
In his submissions on behalf of the AIADMK and Mr. Palaniswami, Mr. Vaidyanathan said Mr. Panneerselvam, too, had gone about issuing statements expelling Mr. Palaniswami and the latter’s supporters from the party.
“I have not heard a speck of an argument on how irreparable prejudice will be caused to the plaintiff if an interim injunction is not granted. This is a classic case of rule-breakers throwing the rule book before the court to throttle the voice of an overwhelming majority of general council members,” he said.
The Senior Counsel said Mr. Panneerselvam had expelled his brother O. Raja from the party without any notice and inquiry. “If somebody is under an illusion that he is a pre-eminent leader, let him establish it by approaching the people or the Election Commission, not in the court,” he said.
Mr. Narayan, representing the general council, said the council was the supreme body of the party, and it had been bestowed with the powers to take any decision concerning the party. Since it was the wish of the founder that the general secretary must be elected by primary members, appropriate resolutions had been passed, he said.
On the other hand, it was Mr. Panneerselvam who got elected as party coordinator not by the primary members, but by the general council in 2017, he said. He also wondered what was so onerous or illegal about the insistence that the names of those contesting the post of general secretary must be proposed by 10 district secretaries and seconded by 10 others.
Such a condition had been incorporated to avoid the filing of frivolous nominations, he said. After completion of arguments, the judge intended to deliver orders on Friday. However, the Senior Counsel for Mr. Panneerselvam obtained time till Friday for submitting his written arguments.