Madras HC: Relief for 18 AIADMK MLAs

CHENNAI: The case will now be referred to a third judge,nine months after 18 AIADMK MLAs were disqualified by the Tamil Nadu Speaker P Dhanapal, the Madras High Court delivered a split verdict Today.

The first bench of the High Court led by Chief Justice Indira Banerjee and Justice M Sundar came out with differing judgements. While CJ Banerjee upheld the disqualification of the 18 AIADMK MLAs, Justice Sundar quashed the disqualification order by the Speaker.
Justice Bannerjee said she found the Speaker’s decision reasonable and therefore did not find a reason to interfere with the order. Justice Sundar meanwhile, said the Speaker’s decision was violative of the principles of natural justice which is why it should be subject to judicial review.

The second most senior judge, Justice Huluvadi G Ramesh, will now take a call on who the third judge will be.The verdict, which was widely predicted to threaten the Edappadi Palaniswami-led government, will now buy the ruling AIADMK more time.

This also means that status quo will be maintained. There will be no bye-elections for the 18 constituencies, nor will there be a floor test for EPS.

18 AIADMK MLAs were disqualified by Speaker P Dhanapal on September 18 and a gazette notification was issued declaring that vacancies to their seats have arisen due to the Anti-Defection Act.


Madras HC to decide fate of Edappadi Palaniswami-led govt

CHENNAI: The decision on Edappadi Palaniswami will be made in Madras High Court on Thursday when it pronounces its verdict on the disqualification of 18 AIADMK MLAs.

The judgement, which was reserved by the High Court on January 24, comes nine months after the 18 MLAs were disqualified.
The 18 AIADMK MLAs were disqualified by Speaker P Dhanapal on September 18 and a gazette notification was issued declaring that vacancies to their seats have arisen due to the Anti-Defection Act.

The MLAs, who were supporting ousted AIADMK Deputy General Secretary, now AMMK leader and RK Nagar MLA TTV Dhinakaran, were disqualified on the grounds that they had “voluntarily given up their party membership”. They had in August filed individual petitions with then Governor Vidyasagar Rao expressing a lack of confidence in Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswamy and withdrew support to him.
Following this, AIADMK Chief Whip S Rajendran filed a complaint with the Speaker claiming that the MLAs were indulging in anti-party activities.

Calling the Speaker’s decision illegal and unauthorised, the MLAs moved the High Court seeking that the Speaker’s decision be quashed and their constitutional right be restored.

While hearing the case, the Madras High Court had on September 20 ordered a stay on the notifying bye-polls to the 18 seats but refused to stay the disqualification.

The court will decide whether the Speaker’s decision to disqualify the 18 MLAs despite no whip being issued holds ground and also whether he had the authority to disqualify the legislators for actions beyond the purview of the Tamil Nadu Assembly.

Madras High Court: Seven newly appointed judges sworn in

CHENNAI:  Seven newly appointed judges of the Madras High Court were sworn in today.

Chief Justice Indira Banerjee administered the oath of office to them.

With this, the total strength of the Madras High Court has reached 63 out of the sanctioned strength of 75.

All the judges are from the Bar. The Law Ministry had on June 1 appointed 14 judges to the three high courts.

While seven additional judges were appointed to the Madras High Court, two were appointed to the Karnataka High Court and five judges to the Madhya Pradesh High Court.

Judicial activism shouldn’t erode constitutional principles: President

President Pranab Mukherjee Saturday cautioned against judicial activism resulting in the erosion of constitutional principles of separation of powers between the three pillars of state and and called on Indian judiciary to reinvent itself through introspection and self-correction.

Speaking at the valedictory function of the sesquicentennial celebrations (150 years) of the Madras High Court here, Mukherjee said: “Judicial activism should not lead to the erosion of Constitutional principles of separation of power. The principle of separation of power is the power of restraint.”

Appreciating the intervention of courts in issues based on complaints received by post cards or a newspaper report, he however said judicial activism should not blur the distinction between the three organs – legislature, executive and judiciary – of the state.

Noting laws are enacted by legislature, the executive implements them and the judiciary interprets them, Mukherjee stressed that the balance of power mentioned in the Constitution should be maintained.

He said each organ of the government functioning within its own sphere and none taking over the function of the others is one of the basic features of the Indian Constitution.

Stressing on the need to preserve and protect the independence of the judiciary from any encroachments, Mukherjee said that despite the challenges, the judiciary is working hard and called for to be further strengthened.

He said the Constitution is being amended to increase the retirement age of the high court judges, and sought the assistance of all concerned to ensure filling up of vacancies.

According to him, alternative dispute resolution mechanisms should be encouraged to speed up the delivery of justice.

Mukherjee said selection and appointment of judges should confirm to highest standards as credibility of judiciary would depend on the quality of the judges.

Speaking about the Madras High Court, Mukherjee said it is one of the three courts established in India by Letters of Patent issued by Queen Victoria.

The Madras High Court was set up in Aug 15, 1862, exactly 85 years prior to India’s independence, he said, terming it a “guardian and watch tower”. Many luminaries emerged out of this court, he added.

In his address, union Law Minister Salman Khurshid hoped the delivery of justice in the country gets faster, and noted several courts under the Madras High Court have taken up the e-court system.

Pointing out the allocation of Rs.159.82 crore for various court and court related buildings, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J.Jayalalithaa stressed that her government is sensitive to the needs of the high court.

“An amount of Rs.10 crore has recently been sanctioned for an auditorium and museum for which I have laid the foundation today (Saturday),” she said.

She said the preliminary works on the setting up of the National Law School at Srirangam (her assembly constituency, around 320 km from here) at an outlay of Rs.100 crore has started.

Jayalalithaa also announced the increase in the financial assistance under the Tamil Nadu Advocates’ Welfare Fund from Rs.200,000 to Rs.525,000 without any service period restriction in the event of death of an advocate.

“A recurring annual government grant will be given, up to Rs.4 crore for the Tamil Nadu Advocates’ Welfare Fund,” she said.

Chief Justice of the Madras High Court M.Y.Eqbal welcomed the gathering comprising of state ministers, judges of the Supreme Court, and the Madras, Kerala and Karnataka High Courts, lawyers, government officials and others.

Pandya wealth: HC questions origin of will

The Madras high court has started putting effort to unravel the mystery of Pandya wealth, rumoured to be lying scattered all across India, besides London, Paris and Switzerland. A division bench of Justices P Jyothimani and M Duraiswamy has also sought to unearth the origin of a ‘will’ of a Pandya descendant in favour of a ‘distant relative’ who claims he has a letter of administration from the high court to manage the royal family’s assets.

  The matter relates to the “will” of Pandya descendant Varagunarama Pandiya Chinna Thambiyar, the eldest son of last zamindar of Sivagiri, allegedly executed on May 19, 1992 in favour of a distant relative, N Jagannathan. Sivagiri zamin (estate) is a remnant of the vast Pandya empire. Varagunarama Pandiyan died six days later, on May 25, 1992.

 After probating the Pandya will in the high court, Jagannathan obtained a letter of administration for some properties in October 2003 and sent it to Switzerland, allegedly to retrieve ‘huge assets’ lying in the vaults of a Swiss bank. For this, he enlisted the services of Swiss national Giuseppe Leopoldo Cessina, who was a fund manager in Switzerland.

 After the legal heirs of the zamin raised objections and filed applications, a single judge cancelled the letter of administration, and Jagannathan filed an appeal against the revocation. While Jagannathan has furnished a list of 108 properties in the city at present, another legal heir, Padmini Rani, sought court’s help to identify the zamin’s private properties.

 On Tuesday, while cross-examining Jagannathan and his counsel Chockalingam, the bench raised several questions. The court wanted to know how a will in favour of a distant relative surfaced six days after Thambiyar’s death; how the high court probated it; how the court issued a letter of administration; how it had to revoke it after a real heir raised an objection; are the zamin’s riches lying unclaimed in Swiss bank vaults; does the government of India possess the ‘secret code’ to unlock the vaults? It also wanted to know why the letter of administration was not returned despite its revocation and orders directing its surrender. At the end of the day, there were more questions than answers.

 Chockalingam insisted that before 1947 the British regime deposited ‘huge assets’ in Swiss vaults under the trust account of the zamin, and that the government possessed a secret code. This was confided to his client by Varagunarama Pandiya himself, he said.

 Despite Justice Jyothimani’s warning that the duo could face penal action besides the lawyer being debarred, Chockalingam said he was “100% sure” that Sivagiri wealth was in Swiss banks and that he had no knowledge as to how another claimant, Vidhya Patwarthan, managed to purchase properties worth Rs 2 crore on ECR. As arguments remained inconclusive, the bench then adjourned it to July 16.