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Plea to set aside TN trust vote: SC seeks AG's assistance

The Supreme Court on Wednesday sought the assistance of the Attorney General in examining a plea by an AIADMK MLA, considered close to former Chief Minister O Panneerselvam, seeking to set aside the February 18 trust vote in Tamil Nadu which was won by E K Palaniswami.
A bench of Justices Dipak Misra and A M Khanwilkar sought the AG's help after senior advocate Gopal Subramanium, appearing for AIADMK MLA K Pandiarajan, claimed that MLAs had voted in the trust vote "under distress" and members of opposition were evicted by marshals from the assembly.
"Let a copy of this writ petition be served on the office of Attorney General for India as we intend to be assisted by him. Let the matter be listed on July 11," the bench said.
Subramanium said there should have been secret ballot but the Tamil Nadu Assembly Speaker had rejected this demand of the MLAs during the February 18 trust vote which was won by Chief Minister E K Palaniswami.
"There was a trust vote but MLAs voted under distress.
Members of opposition were evicted by the marshals and voting was held in a hurry. The opposition had said there should be secret voting," he told the bench.
He said the Governor as well as the Speaker can act in this issue and a representation was also made to the Governor.
"The governor has received representation and forwarded it to the the Speaker. Some decision has to be taken by them whether fresh trust vote is required," he said.
To this, the bench asked "why can't they have a trust vote again? Why cannot they do it on their own?"
Responding to this, Subramanium said this has to be done by the Speaker and the rules do not debar a secret ballot. The AIADMK MLA has challenged the decision of the Tamil Nadu Assembly Speaker rejecting their demand for secret ballot during the trust vote and sought a direction for quashing Speaker P Dhanapal's decision rejecting their demand to determine the outcome of the floor test.
Besides, the petitioner has sought setting aside of all consequential actions including the February 18 resolution of the Assembly "expressing confidence in favour of council of ministers headed by Edappadi K Palaniswami, as the same are illegal, capricious, discriminatory and violative of the principle of 'secrecy' which is the essence of democracy, free and fair elections..."
He has also sought a direction to the Speaker to conduct a floor test afresh only through a secret ballot in the presence of "independent and impartial" observers nominated by the Supreme Court.
On February 18, jailed AIADMK general secretary V K Sasikala loyalist E K Palaniswami had won an easy trust vote 122-11, helped by the eviction of main opposition DMK and a walkout by its allies, amid stormy scenes during which mikes were uprooted, chairs toppled and sheets of papers torn and hurled around.
Pandiarajan has claimed that 122 MLAs belonging to AIADMK were "forcibly held hostage" at the Golden Bay Resort from February 8 till right before the voting on February 18.
He has claimed that Panneerselvam had given a representation on February 19 to the Governor of Tamil Nadu requesting him not to approve the February 18 resolution of the Assembly and urged him to fix another date for a fresh vote of confidence by secret ballot.
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