The Madras High Court on Thursday stayed the operation of privilege notices against MLAs of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam for waving packets of gutka in the Tamil Nadu Assembly on July 19. The court adjourned the hearing to September 14.

The Privileges Committee of the Tamil Nadu Assembly had issued a show cause notice to 21 DMK legislators, including the party’s Working President MK Stalin, after they waved gutka packets in the House to highlight the violation of a ban on the substance in the state. On Wednesday, the DMK moved the Madras High Court asking it to declare the notice illegal.

DMK MLA KS Ravichandran, who filed the petition in the court, said that the lawmakers had displayed gutka packets “in public interest”, as the product was being sold and distributed openly. “The notice is not coincidental, and its sole motive is to prevent DMK MLAs from exercising their legal and constitutional right to vote during a floor test in the Assembly,” Ravichandran claimed.

The DMK, represented by advocate and Congress leader Kapil Sibal, claimed that Assembly Speaker P Dhanapal referred the matter to the Privileges Committee on July 19 itself, without giving the party any opportunity to address the House on the alleged breach of privilege.

The party claimed in court that the timing of the show cause notice, which was issued on August 28, was not “innocuous”. To justify this, the DMK said that the committee did not take any action on the matter until August 22, when 19 legislators from the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam expressed their lack of confidence in state Chief Minister Edappadi Palaiswami.