The Supreme Court on Friday directed the All India Anna Dravida Munneta Kazhagam rival factions, led by expelled leader O Panneerselvam (OPS) and Edappadi K Palaniswami (EPS), to maintain the status quo with regard to the party's affairs and asked the Madras high court to adjudicate on the pleas of the OPS faction against the general council meeting in three weeks.
In the general council meeting of the AIADMK on July 11, OPS was expelled from the party and EPS was elevated as the interim general secretary, putting an end to the dual-leadership model after a bitter fight.
In the aftermath of the death of AIADMK supremo J Jayalalithaa in 2016, a dual leadership was put in place in the party and the government. Under the arrangement, Palaniswami became the chief minister and Panneerselvam, a multiple-time former CM, his deputy. Panneerselvam was made the coordinator of the AIADMK and Palaniswami the joint coordinator.
Their relations soured over time and the predominant EPS camp ousted OPS at its general council meeting in July.
A bench headed by Chief Justice N V Ramana, however, refused to restore the position prevailing before (status quo ante) the general council meeting when OPS was in the party in a leadership role.
"Our request is that their (EPS) decisions taken on July 11 be kept at abeyance and then we will fight this matter on an equal plane. Today, they (EPS faction) are in an advantageous position," senior advocate Gurukrishna Kumar told the bench.
The submission was vehemently opposed by senior advocate Rakesh Dwivedi, representing the EPS faction which has gained control over the party once presided over by the redoubtable Jayalalithaa.
The bench, also comprising Justices Krishna Murari and Hima Kohli, requested the Madras high court to decide the bitter fight between the rival factions without being influenced by any remarks or orders.
The CJI referred to the July 6 order of a vacation bench by which the Madras high court direction had been stayed. The high court had restrained the EPS faction from passing any unannounced resolution in the meeting of the AIADMK general and executive councils concerning the issue of single leadership of the party.
The top court said because of this order, the single judge bench of the high court was ”unable to properly adjudicate upon the case”.
"In view of the difficulties expressed by the high court bench... Instead of keeping the matter here, we will send back the matter to the High Court for reconsideration without being influenced by the orders passed by us....
"We request the high court to dispose of the matter preferably within a period of three weeks and till such time, the status quo has to be maintained by the parties. We have not expressed any opinion on merits...," the top court said in the order.
At the outset, the senior counsel, appearing for OPS faction, said, "Extreme decisions" have been taken against Panneerselvam and he had been expelled from the party.
"If that notice is contrary to the by-laws then all the consequences will go," he contended.
Senior advocate Ranjit Kumar, also appearing for the OPS faction, said that status quo as existing on July 11, 2022, be restored as the leader has been removed without following the procedures laid down under the rules.
"We cannot do that," the bench said.
OPS had earlier filed a civil suit in the Madras high court requesting for an order of ad-interim injunction restraining the respondents, including EPS, from convening the general council meet on an anonymous notice dated July 1, 2022, pending disposal of the suit.
In a fallout of the single leadership demand in the party, the dominant EPS faction has said Panneerselvam ceased to be the coordinator following the June 23 general council meeting. The EPS faction had then summoned the next GC on July 11, ostensibly to elect Palaniswami as the single leader that day.
Convening that meet is illegal and in contravention of the bylaws of the party, "surreptitiously manoeuvred" by respondents including Palaniswami and presidium chairman A Tamil Magan Hussain, Panneerselvam had said in his plea.