The Madras High Court on Thursday heard a petition challenging the Tamil Nadu Speaker’s decision to disqualify 18 MLAs of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam loyal to sidelined leader TTV Dinakaran, reported PTI. During the submission, senior counsel for the MLAs said that showing dissent against a party leader would neither amount to surrendering the party membership nor attract disqualification from the Assembly.

“The political party must be considered supreme, not any leader of such party,” said counsel Mohan Parasaran. “MLAs dissenting against such leader would not amount to leaving the party and attract disqualification.”

Justice M Sathyanarayanan, hearing the pleas, posted the matter for further hearing on Friday. The Supreme Court had appointed the judge after a split verdict by a division bench on June 14. It had also refused to transfer the case out of the Madras High Court.

In September 2017, Tamil Nadu Assembly Speaker P Dhanapal disqualified 18 AIADMK MLAs after they showed support for Dinakaran. Their disqualification brought the Assembly’s effective strength down to 215 and the half-way mark to 108. If the MLAs are reinstated, the ruling AIADMK government headed by Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami and his deputy O Panneerselvam could collapse.

In court on Thursday, senior counsel Mukul Rohatgi justified the party chief whip’s decision to recommend disqualification because the legislators had acted against the party’s decision.

Last week, Palaniswami’s counsel had told the court that the MLAs were disqualified because they committed political impropriety by meeting Tamil Nadu Governor Banwarilal Purohit.