Courts can't interfere with political party's inner functions: Supreme Court [7.7.22]

Observing that courts cannot interfere with the inner functioning of a political party, the Supreme Court on Wednesday stayed a Madras High Court order, which had restrained the passing of resolutions in the general council meeting of AIADMK.

A vacation bench of Justices Dinesh Maheshwari and Krishna Murari stayed the June 23 order of the HC on a plea filed by EK Palaniswami. The SC made it clear that AIADMK's general council can hold further meetings in accordance with the law, refusing to stay the July 11 meeting.

On June 23, a division bench of the Madras HC had restrained the AIADMK general council from passing any resolution. The division bench passed an order in an intra-court appeal filed by M Shanmugham, AIADMK's general council member belonging to the O Paneerselvam camp, against a single bench order passed earlier in the day. The single bench had refused to restrain the party from making any amendments to its bylaws.

The dispute pertains to changing the dual-leadership structure of AIADMK. Disputes had cropped up between both the leaders, with Palaniswami camp seeking unitary leadership.

In its special leave petition, the Palaniswami group contended that in the general council on June 23, most of the members sought abolition of the dual leadership model.

The top court verbally observed that the HC division bench exceeded its jurisdiction by passing orders which amounted to interference with the inner functioning of a political party.

Referring to the order passed by the HC, the top court orally remarked that the said direction "amounts to the court telling the party how it should function".

The SC in its order said: "It may be clarified that though the meeting dated June 23 has already taken place but in view of further steps/proceedings taken up or likely to be taken appears necessary and expedient that the operation of the order (by Madras HC) shall remain stayed until further orders of this court."

Appearing on behalf of Palaniswami, senior advocate CS Vaidyanathan informed the SC bench that contempt petitions have been initiated for the party meeting held. The SC said if contempt proceedings have been initiated, then it will have to examine the legality of the order. It observed that the single bench of the HC had done the right thing by not interfering with the general council meeting. However, the same was reversed by the HC's division bench.

Appearing on behalf of the Paneerselvam group, senior advocate Maninder Singh submitted that the single bench had not recorded any reason in the order and added that the division bench had passed a reasoned order. As regards the concern expressed by the bench regarding the contempt proceedings, Singh said the division bench order was related to only the June 23 meeting.

The SC orally observed: "Can the court pass a direction how to conduct a meeting? ...Why should the matters be decided in a judicial forum instead of the general council?"

Issuing notices to respondents on Paneerselvam's SLP, the SC said the pendency of the instant plea would "not be of any impediment" in the single bench of Madras HC dealing with civil suits examining the matter.


07 Jul 2022