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It has taken nearly five months for the first bench comprising Madras high court Chief Justice Indira Banerjee and Justice M Sundar to agree to disagree. They reserved their verdict, after marathon hearing, on January 24.
Now that the first bench has delivered a split verdict, the issue is now being referred to a third judge who will break the tie by siding with either of his colleagues.
For the record, on Thursday, Chief Justice Indira Banerjee reiterated her well-known stand that the court could not interfere with the decision of the assembly speaker and therefore the disqualification of the 18 rebel AIADMK MLAs would hold good. She said the speaker had given reasons for his decision to disqualify the 18 MLAs and it should not be interfered with by the court.
She followed it up with an observation that byelection preparations could begin. Though the MLAs were disqualified by an order of the Tamil Nadu assembly speaker on September 18, 2017, and the vacancies were notified too, byelections could not be held as the high court on September 20, 2017 stayed poll process to fill the ‘vacancies’.
Her junior colleague on the bench, Justice Sundar, however, took a different stand and said he could not agree with the views of the chief justice. Whether Justice Huluvadi G Ramesh, who is the next seniormost judge, would be the tie-breaker-judge, or he would name a third judge would be known shortly.
The immediate impact of the split verdict is that the 18 assembly constituencies continued to be known as ‘orphan constituencies’, as they had not been represented in the assembly for four straight sessions, including a budget session and the ongoing debate on grants.