SC stays Madras HC order that declared lone AIADMK MP P Ravindhranath’s election invalid

New Delhi:┬áThe Supreme Court has stayed a Madras High Court order that declared as “null and void” the 2019 election of expelled AIADMK member P Ravindhranath from Tamil Nadu’s Theni parliamentary constituency.

A bench of justices Surya Kant and Dipankar Datta admitted the appeal filed by Ravindhranath against the high court order for hearing and issued notice to P Milany, who filed the petition challenging his election from the Theni constituency.

“Meanwhile, operation of the impugned judgment and order dated July 6, 2023, passed by the High Court of Judicature at Madras, shall remain stayed. Resultantly, the appellant (P Ravindhranath) shall be allowed to continue as a Member of Parliament of the 17th Lok Sabha for all intents and purposes till further orders,” the bench said in an order passed on Friday.

Ravindhranath is the son of deposed AIADMK leader and former Tamil Nadu chief minister O Panneerselvam.

Milany alleged before the high court that Ravindhranath suppressed various materials while filing his nomination for the election, including the particulars of his movable and immovable assets and liabilities, and those of his family members.

The suppression of the facts materially affected the election, he complained in his election petition.

On July 6, the high court said, “Admittedly, in this case, as spoken by the returning officer, the nomination of the third respondent (Ravindhranath) was accepted by the returning officer on the date of scrutiny. On the date of scrutiny, the objection raised by a third party, Arappor Iyakkam, is a valid objection and the non-disclosure or false disclosure is admitted by the third respondent himself by submitting an affidavit after scrutiny contrary to statutory provisions and the guidelines given in the handbook for returning officer.”

“This shows that the returning officer, who was supposed to consider the objection on the date of scrutiny of nomination, failed to do that and accepted the nomination without an explanation or correction. As a consequence, this court holds that the nomination of the third respondent has been improperly accepted by the returning officer,” it added.

Ravindhranath had argued that the suppression did not materially affect the result of the election.

The high court ruled, “Suppression is proved. As a consequence, this court holds that the nomination of the returned candidate had been improperly accepted. In view of the conclusions reached above on all issues, this court has to allow the election petition and declare the election of the third respondent or returned candidate as void.”

Immediately after his election as the then interim general secretary of the AIADMK in July last year, party chief Edappadi K Palaniswami expelled his rival Panneerselvam and Ravindhranath among others from the party.

Palaniswami later wrote to Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla that Ravindranath was no longer with the AIADMK and that he should not be considered an MP representing the party.

In effect, the AIADMK is left with no Lok Sabha member as Ravindhranath was the lone successful party candidate in 2019 when the DMK and its allies swept the elections.

Ravindhranath had defeated Congress veteran EVKS Elangovan.