The Madras High Court allowed the AIADMK to hold its General Council meeting on Monday, a huge blow for former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister O Panneerselvam.
On July 8, a single bench of Justice Krishnan Ramaswamy reserved OPS’s plea to halt this meeting, which might result in the termination of the dual leadership setup and the election of his competitor E Palaniswami as AIADMK interim general secretary. Earlier in the day, OPS and EPS supporters battled in Chennai, destroying posters and flags.
Former Chief Minister O Paneerselvam submitted the motion to halt the meeting, claiming that sufficient notice was not given for the meeting, as required by the party’s bylaws. According to the bylaws, the notice for the meeting might be issued by the Coordinator or the Joint Coordinator, but in the present situation, the notification was issued by the headquarters office bearers, he stated.
Edappadi Palaniswamy (AIADMK Joint Coordinator) said that what was provided was an invitation to attend the meeting rather than a notice of the meeting. He also questioned Paneerselvam’s suit against AIADMK, despite the fact that he was the party’s Coordinator at the time. Thus, it was contended that Paneerselvam had brought an unconstitutional civil suit against himself.
He also referred to the Supreme Court order allowing the meeting to take place and argued that the High Court should not interfere with the Supreme Court’s order.
J Jayalalithaa’s sudden death on December 5, 2016, left a void in her party, which O Panneerselvam first filled. However, her close ally Sasikala was elected as the party’s General Secretary and ran for state chief minister in February 2017.
While Panneerselvam resigned from his position and supported her candidacy, he later revolted against her. After the Supreme Court found Sasikala guilty in the disproportionate assets case, her team chose EPS to replace OPS.
However, on August 21, 2017, the AIADMK factions led by the then-CM and Panneerselvam combined, paving the path for Sasikala’s removal from the party.
The rules and regulations of the bye-laws were revised during the General Council meeting that day, placing the rights and responsibilities of the General Secretary in two new posts: Coordinator and Joint Coordinator.
While three-time Tamil Nadu Chief Minister OPS was appointed as the Coordinator, EPS was named as the Joint Coordinator. After the DMK’s landslide victory in the 2021 Tamil Nadu Assembly elections, the AIADMK leadership conflict resurfaced.
On July 6, the Supreme Court stayed the Madras High Court’s ruling prohibiting the AIADMK’s General Council from altering party bye-laws to allow for unitary leadership.
It also refused to stay the AIADMK General Council meeting, stating that it cannot interfere with the internal functioning of a political organisation.
On July 5, OPS moved the Madras High Court once more in a last-ditch effort to prevent this meeting from taking place. While dismissing his suit, Justice Ramasamy stated that the meeting may be conducted legitimately.
While allowing the meeting to be conducted in line with the law, the court maintained that anyone who felt the meeting was not conducted in accordance with the law could file a civil suit.
The court added that more than 2100 of the General Assembly’s 2665 members have expressed a wish to conduct the meeting. “In a democratic set up, the will of the majority will prevail,” the court stated.
Case Title: O. Panneerselvam vs AIADMK and others