Rival factions of the AIADMK, led by interim general secretary V.K. Sasikala and Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam, may have to wait longer for Governor Ch. Vidyasagar Rao to decide on their claims of majority support in the Assembly. The Governor, in his assessment of the situation, has indicated that he is inclined to wait till the Supreme Court delivers its verdict on the appeals in the disproportionate assets cases against Ms. Sasikala.
Noting that Ms. Sasikala is not a member of the Assembly, the Governor has apparently been advised to consider this as a “restrictive” factor in swearing her in as CM.
Technically, there is no bar on a non-legislator to be sworn in as Minister. Article 164 (4) of the Constitution merely states: “A Minister who for any period of six consecutive months is not a member of the Legislature of the State shall at the expiration of that period cease to be a Minister.”
Not an enabling clause: SC
However, the Supreme Court had in a judgment — B.R. Kapoor Vs State of Tamil Nadu and Others, September 2001 —held: “Article 164 (4) is not a source of power or an enabling provision for appointment of a non-legislator as a Minister even for a short duration. It is actually in the nature of disqualification or restriction for a non-member, who has been appointed as a Chief Minister or a Minister as the case may be, to continue in office, without getting elected within a period of six months.”
Sources said in the backdrop of the Supreme Court indicating that it would deliver the judgement in the assets case against Ms. Sasikala soon, the Governor was wondering whether she would be able to contest an election as legislator within six months (should she be convicted).
Shadow of doubt constrains Governor’s decision
In his report to the Centre on the rival claims of AIADMK factions, Tamil Nadu Governor Ch. Vidyasagar Rao has taken into account the Supreme Court judgment that Article 164 (4) is not a source of power or an enabling provision for appointment of a non-legislator as a Minister even for a short duration, sources said.
Further, in the backdrop of the Supreme Court indicating that it would deliver the judgement in the disproportionate assets case against Ms. Sasikala soon, the Governor was wondering whether she would be able to contest an election as legislator within six months (should she be convicted), the sources added.
According to one source, the Governor was of the view that “Even when there is an iota of doubt about the ability of the person to get elected to Assembly within six months, Article 164 (4) has to be interpreted as a restriction/ disqualification as contained in the interpretation of the Supreme Court verdict.”
The Governor was bound by the Constitution to satisfy himself that a person staking claim would form a stable government. But the impending verdict has led to an uncertainty on whether Ms Sasikala would eventually qualify to become an MLA. Also public interest litigation petitions have been filed in the Supreme Court against inviting Ms. Sasikala to form the Government.
“Mr. Rao has been advised to wait for a few days so that a clear picture emerges enabling him to discharge his duties in accordance with the letter and spirit of the Constitution,” a source said.
Besides, the Raj Bhavan felt that a peculiar situation had arisen as Ms. Sasikala had submitted a resolution, originally proposed and signed by Mr. Panneerselvam, electing her as the AIADMK Legislature Party leader. The resolution itself was moved after Mr. Panneerselvam’s resignation was submitted to the Governor last Sunday. But now, the Chief Minister had submitted that he was constrained, forced and coerced to sign the resignation letter under duress and has requested the Governor to rescind action taken thereon.
“The Governor is also concerned about certain allegations of MLAs being confined and possibilities of horse trading,” a source said. Mr. Rao had on Friday held meetings with Chief Secretary Girija Vaidyanathan, Director General of Police T.K. Rajendran and Chennai Commissioner of Police S. George and instructed them to verify the allegations and ensure that the MLAs were acting as per their free will.
Mr. Panneerselvam is continuing as caretaker Chief Minister, pending alternative arrangements. In view of this, the Raj Bhavan feels that “there is no vacuum and hence there is no need for being unduly alarmed.”
He is learnt to be of the view that the present political situation is due to the internal affairs of the ruling party. “Mr. Rao does not want to take sides with any party. He wants to be guided only by the Constitutional provisions and their interpretations in case laws. Governor wants to uphold ideals of democracy and values of the Constitution,” a source said.