A Supreme Court Bench of Justice Dinesh Maheshwari and Justice Hrishikesh Roy has upheld an order passed by the Madras High Court which set aside the cancellation of the election of Edappadi K Palaniswami as interim General Secretary of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK).

Senior Advocate Guru Krishna Kumar and Senior Advocate Ranjit Kumar appeared for the Petitioners. Senior Advocate C.S. Vaidyanathan, Senior Advocate Aryama Sundaram, Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi and Senior Advocate Atul Yeshwant Chitale appeared for the Respondents.

In this case, the batch of petitions before the Court included an appeal by the O Panneerselvam camp against a Judgment passed by the Division Bench of the Madras High Court upholding the resolution passed at the general council meeting, by which he was expelled and Palaniswami was appointed as the interim General Secretary.

After the passing of the party's former General Secretary and the arrest of the subsequent interim General Secretary, Palaniswami and Panneerselvam held the posts of Joint Coordinator and Coordinator of the party, respectively. However, the party held a General Council meeting which passed resolutions to abolish these posts and restore the post of General Secretary.

The Supreme Court held that the logic and reasoning of the Division Bench of the High Court was in accord with the law and the facts of the case.

In that context, the Court was of the view that "when Coordinator and Joint Co-ordinator were shown to be not functioning jointly (for whatsoever reason), a functional deadlock came into existence for the party and a workable solution was required to be found. In the given scenario, the actions and steps taken by the requisitioning members as also by the Presidium Chairman cannot be declared as unwarranted or illegal at this stage."

The Court further took the view that in an internal matter of the party, the approach of the Court cannot be of finding technical faults and flaws detached from the substance of the matter.

It was also observed that "the authority of the General Council to deal with the relevant matters could not have been brushed aside with reference to the strength of the primary membership of the party."

The Court was of the considered opinion that "ordinarily the Court would not interfere in the internal issues of an association/party and would leave it open to the association/party and its members to take a particular decision for better administration; and that had been the correct approach towards the facts of the case. In the present case, when General Council is shown to be the apex body of the party,taking any exception to the meeting of the General Council could have neither been countenanced nor interfered with by way of temporary injunction. In the given set of facts and circumstances, the hyper-technical suggestions as sought to be made about the want of valid notice with reference to date, time and place of meeting i.e., with reference to Chapter 5 from Shackleton on the Law and Practice of Meetings (supra) do not further the cause of the appellants, particularly when it is noticed that the date, time and place of the meeting in question were duly declared in the meeting".

The Court also noted that "as a general rule, it cannot be laid down that the requisitionists have no option but only to go to the Court if the meeting is not convened. It has also been pointed out that in the past, when the interim General Secretary could not act in the year 2017, the Office Bearers stepped in and convened the meeting based on a requisition received. The present situation too, where the position as occupied earlier by the General Secretary was assigned to the Co-ordinator and the Joint Co-ordinator in their jointness and it remains beyond a shadow of doubt that Co-ordinator and the Joint Co-ordinator do not stand in jointness and cannot act jointly, is akin to the situation when the apex position holder was not in a position to act. Obviously, a workable solution was to be found; and when the solution as found and applied, does not otherwise appear offending the spirit of byelaws as also the norms of functioning of an association or a party, it cannot be said that declaration of the Presidium Chairman for the meeting of the General Council on 11.07.2022 and the follow-up notice by the Office Bearers at Party Headquarters had been wholly unauthorised."

In passing, the Court observed that "while filing the suit and seeking interim relief, the plaintiff OPS and even the other plaintiff, have arrayed the parties to the litigation in the manner that the political partyAIADMK, as also its General Council and its Central Executive Committee are said to be represented by “Co-ordinator and Joint Co-ordinator” in terms of assertions of these plaintiffs that the party and its governing/executing bodies are only to be represented by the Co-ordinator and the Joint Co-ordinator jointly. This effort on the part of the plaintiffs carries its own shortcomings when it remains undeniable that they i.e., OPS and EPS, the Co-ordinator and the Joint Co-ordinator respectively, do not stand in jointness or even togetherness so as to work cohesively as a unit. The effort on the part of the plaintiffs does not stand in conformity with the existing realities."

Consequently, the appeals were dismissed.

Cause Title: Thiru K Palaniswamy v. M Shanmugam & Ors.

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