Tamil Nadu Advocate General Vijay Narayan today told the Madras High Court that the revolt by 19 AIADMK MLAs against Chief Minister K Palaniswami was an “intra-party affair” and the governor could not interfere in it. He made the submission while arguing on the maintainability of a public interest litigation (PIL), which sought a direction to the governor to order a floor test in the Assembly. When the matter came up before the first bench, comprising Chief Justice Indira Banerjee and Justice M Sunder, the AG, who appeared on behalf of the governor, said the letters given by the 19 MLAs were not against the government, but “only against the person who is the current chief minister”. He also contended that it was an intra-party affair and hence, the governor could not interfere in it.
The AG further said a situation for the government to prove its majority in the House had not arrived and added that he would like to argue on the maintainability of the PIL, following which the court adjourned the matter to October 3. The petitioner, Pugazhenthi, who is a lawyer, had filed the PIL citing the latest political development in the AIADMK — 19 of its 122 MLAs writing to Governor Ch Vidyasagar Rao on August 22 and stating that they did not have confidence in the chief minister. Earlier, the petitioner’s counsel contended that the governor was bound to direct a floor test in the Assembly in view of the stand taken by the 19 MLAs.
Claiming that the legislators had given individual letters to the governor, the petitioner argued that Rao had “unfortunately” not taken any steps to conduct the floor test. The governor had also received a letter from Leader of Opposition in the Assembly M K Stalin (of the DMK), with a request to uphold the constitutional norms by directing the chief minister to prove his government’s majority.
The petitioner contended that the “inaction” on the governor’s part in conducting the floor test immediately would pave the way for horse-trading and prove to be destructive to public interest. On the petitioner’s contention that the leader of opposition had also written to the governor seeking a floor test, the AG said Stalin himself could approach the court and added, “There is no need for a third party.”
A PIL was maintainable if the person concerned was not able to approach the court, he said, adding that the leader of opposition could very much approach it. The petitioner also contended that Palaniswami was sworn in on February 16 with the governor directing him to seek a vote of confidence in the Assembly within 15 days. The February 18 trust vote was won by the chief minister with the support of 122 MLAs, he said, adding that now, 19 of them had “withdrawn” support.