Madurai: The 18 disqualified AIADMK legislators on Friday decided to approach the Supreme Court against the Madras High Court order upholding their disqualification by Tamil Nadu Assembly Speaker P Dhanapal last year.
Thanga Tamilselvan, one of the disqualified MLAs and a staunch supporter of sidelined AIADMK leader TTV Dhinakaran, said the decision was "unanimous" and accepted with "joy" by all the 18 MLAs.
The decision was taken after a discussion between the disqualified legislators and Dhinakaran here.
"It has been decided that we will go in for an appeal to show to the world that what the Speaker has done is a mistake. We are going to appeal in the Supreme Court," he told reporters.
Two MLAs were not present in the meeting, with one being away in Chennai and the other being indisposed, but the decision on approaching the apex court with an appeal was "unanimous," he said.
However, three other AIADMK legislators, who have since switched sides to the Dhinakaran camp post last year's disqualification of the 18 MLAs, attended Friday's meeting, he added.
The Madras High Court on Thursday upheld the June 14 order of the then Chief Justice disqualifying 18 rebel AIADMK legislators, in a huge relief to the K Palaniswami government.
The 18 disqualified MLAs are loyalists of Dhinakaran, who now heads the AMMK, and deposed AIADMK leader V K Sasikala.
Dhinakaran has repeatedly been insisting that he will oust the Palaniswami government and merge the AIADMK with his AMMK.
Tamilselvan alleged that the 18 MLAs were disqualified by the Speaker for siding with Dhinakaran and recalled they had voted in favour of the government in last year's confidence vote, held soon after Palaniswami was appointed as the Chief Minister.
He questioned as to why no action had been taken against Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam and MLAs who supported him even though they voted against the government during the trust vote held in February 2017.
After falling out of favour with then AIADMK interim general secretary V K Sasikala, Panneerselvam had resigned, and led a splinter group, comprising AIADMK functionaries and some MLAs.
Palaniswami was subsequently made Chief Minister and he had won the confidence vote held in February 2017.
But the two leaders later merged their respective factions, and sacked Sasikala and Dhinakaran from the party.
Tamilselvan said apart from moving the Supreme Court with an appeal, the disqualified MLAs were prepared to face elections "even if they were held tomorrow".
He exuded confidence that all the 18 of them will win the elections, this time on an AMMK ticket.
Expressing hope of a 'favourable' verdict in the apex court against their disqualification, he said the disqualified legislators will file the appeal "very soon" though there was a window of a maximum of 90 days for this purpose.
"We are not moving the Supreme Court out of any apprehensions. We just want to show that the Speaker has committed a mistake. All (disqualified) MLAs are united," he added.
The MLAs are approaching the apex court with the appeal to prove "we are innocent," he added.
To a question, he said all the 18 of them have expressed a desire to meet Sasikala in Bengaluru where she is serving a four year jail term in a disproportionate assets case, and that the matter has been conveyed to Dhinakaran.
The 18 AIADMK MLAs were disqualified on September 18 last year by Dhanapal under the anti-defection law after they met then Governor C H Vidyasagar Rao and expressed loss of confidence in Chief Minister Palaniswami.
"... there is no error apparent on the face of the record and the reasons assigned by the Speaker did not suffer on the grounds of breach of constitutional mandate, malafides, non-compliance of the rules of natural justice and no perversity is attached to the reasons assigned by the Speaker to disqualify the petitioners," Justice M Sathyanarayanan, who heard the case, ruled.
After an earlier bench, including then Chief Justice Indira Banerjree, gave a split verdict on the matter, the case was referred to Justice Sathyanarayanan.
The judge also vacated the interim orders passed by the court granting a stay on a floor test and a direction to the Election Commission not to declare the seats of disqualified lawmakers vacant.
It is now up to the EC to take a call on whether to hold the by-polls.