The Madras High Court has restrained former AIADMK (All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam) party leader O.Panneerselvam from using the official letterhead, reserved symbol, and the flag of the party.

The Court said that if he is not restrained from claiming party status, it will lead to confusion among the cadres and lead to serious consequences.

The Court was dealing with an original application filed by Thiru.Edappadi K. Palaniswami, General Secretary of AIADMK seeking issuance of interim injunction restraining Panneerselvam, his men, and any other person claiming under him from interfering with the functioning of him as General Secretary.

A Single Bench of Justice N. Sathish Kumar observed, “… this Court is satisfied that the prima facie case and the balance of convenience is in the favour of applicant/plaintiff. If the defendant/expelled person is not restrained from claiming Party status, the same will lead to confusion among the cadres and lead serious consequences. The loss that may ocassion are irreperable. … Considering the above, this Court is of the definite opinion that if the defendant is not restrained as sought by the plaintiff, it will lead to the confusion and the suit becomes academic.”

The Bench said that merely because political party is not shown prior to the name of the plaintiff, the same may not be a reason to non-suit the suit.

Senior Advocate Vijay Narayan appeared for the applicant while Senior Advocates P.H. Aravindh Pandian and Abdul Saleem appeared for the respondent.

Brief Facts -

The plaintiff Palaniswami, General Secretary of AIADMK was the former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu State and the respondent Panneerselvam was expelled from the primary membership by the General Council of the party for several anti-party activities including ransacking of the party headquarters situated in Chennai. Panneerselvam was expelled by a General Council of AIADMK in July 2022 and was later elected as the top leader of the opposition party.

In November 2023, the High Court on a suit filed by Palaniswami passed an interim order restraining Panneerselvam form using the party letterhead, symbol, and flag and being aggrieved by this, Panneerselvam filed appeals. However, the court dismissed the aforesaid appeals but granted liberty to Panneerselvam to approach the Single Judge by filing applications seeking vacation of the order. Hence, he approached the Single Judge.

The High Court in the above context of the case noted, “… this Court is of the view that contention of the learned Senior Counsel of the defendant that there is no description for the flags have no legs to stand. Bye-law 4 clearly sets out the description of the flag. The colour and size of the flag are not in dispute. When such being the position, when the defendant and supporters were removed from the primary membership in a General Council and the resolution is not found invalid by any Courts so far and merely the suits are pending challenging the validity of the resolution, this defendant cannot contend that he is still continuing as a primary member of the Party and can use the letter pad, symbol and flag of the party.”

The Court added that unless and until, his expulsion is declared to be void by the competent court, he cannot interfere with the affairs of the General Secretary elected by the majority of members in the General Council Meeting and that though the suit itself is for permanent injunction, it is apt to point out that the defendant has held the post of Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu thrice, besides, he had also held several posts in the said political party for many years.

“If, he is allowed to use the party symbols, flag and letter pad and interfere with the affiars of the General Secretary elected by the majority members by way of resolution, it will lead to serious chaos in the political arena. Though the main relief is also the permanent injunction, this Court is of the view that if the interim order is not passed at this stage, it will lead the cadre to serious confusion”, it remarked.

Furthermore, the Court said that mere pendency of the suit will not entail the defendant to continue as a primary member or Coordinator of the political party, particularly when the majority of the members in the General Council expelled the defendant and its supporters by way of resolution and if the injunction is not granted citing that the main relief is also one and the same, it will defeat the very resolution passed in the General Council Meeting.

“Merely, because the suits are pending, it cannot be contended that the resolution is not valid. I may point out an analogy where a person is suspended from service or any association, merely, on the basis of challenge made against such suspension in the Court of law, one cannot contend that he continued to be a member or servant or employer of the association. Same analogy will also apply to the defendant. As long as the suspension or expulsion is not interfered or suspended by the competent Court, mere pendency of suit challeging such expulsion before the competent Court will not give any right to the defendant to claim as a primary member and also Co-ordinator”, it also observed.

The Court noted that mere calling himself as Co-ordinator of his own faction or different new faction may not be a problem, but, he claims to be a Co-ordinator of the recognised political party from where he is expelled same will certainly lead to confusion among the party cadres and create serious consequences.

“As far as the submission with regard to the present suit is filed only in the individual capacity of the plaintiff, on perusal of the Bye-law of the Party, Rule 20-A(viii) empowers the General Secretary to initiate legal proceedings on behalf of the party. The plaintiff has filed the suit as a General Secretary of the Party. Merely, because political party is not shown prior to the name of the plaintiff, the same may not be a reason to non-suit the suit. Therefore, the contention of the defendant in this regard cannot be countenanced”, it concluded.

Accordingly, the High Court retrained the expelled AIADMK leader from claiming party status.

Cause Title- Thiru.Edappadi K.Palaniswami v. O.Panneerselvam (Neutral Citation: 2024:MHC:1310)


Applicant: Senior Advocate Vijay Narayan and Advocate Gowthamkumar.

Respondent: Senior Advocates P.H. Aravindh Pandian, Abdul Saleem, and Advocate P. Rajalakshmi.

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