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SC notice to Speaker
Expulsion of MPs: case sent to Constitution Bench
S.S. Negi
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, January 16
Ahead of the all-party meeting called by Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee to discuss the issue of court’s “intervention” in the expulsion of MPs “involved” in the cash-for-query scam in the wake of the notice issued to him by the Delhi High Court, the Supreme Court today referred the matter to a Constitution bench to examine the question whether the Parliament has been empowered to expel its members.

The apex court issued notices to the Speaker, the Union Government, Election Commission and the Attorney General, seeking their “assistance” in the adjudication of the matter, which it said, had raised an “important” question of law about the privileges of MPs laid down under Article 105 of the Constitution.

The court made it amply clear that it was not concerned about the merit of the case, in the context of the sting operation showing MPs taking bribe for asking question in Parliament. “We are not on merit of the case, we are only on the constitutional provision… whether Article 105, setting out the privileges of members of Parliament, encompasses the power (in Parliament) to expel a member,” a Bench of Chief Justice Y.K. Sabharwal, Mr Justice C.K. Thakker and Mr Justice R.V. Raveendran said.

The order came on a writ petition of BSP MP Raja Ram Pal, who was the lone expelled member out of 11 caught on camera in a sting operation, while his other colleagues had preferred to move the High Court.

Taking note of the fact that the issue has come before the court for the first time to define the law laid down in the Constitution on this aspect, the Bench said, “ultimately this question has to be decided.”

But the court refused to grant any interim stay on the order of expulsion, or holding of fresh elections in the constituency, represented by Raja Ram Pal.

Apparently taking note of the tough stance taken by the Speaker on the issue as he had gone to the extent of saying that he would not respond to court notices, the Bench in its brief order said “the notices to the respondents are to assist the court in adjudication of the matter.”

Advocate K.S. Chauhan, appearing for the expelled BSP MP, drew the attention of the court to the wordings of Article 105 and sought its interpretation in the light of Articles 101, 102 and 103, which deal with “vacation of seats in the two Houses of Parliament, disqualifications of MPs and the decision on their disqualifications.”

He further said that the provision of “privileges of members” has to be read along with the provisions of Article 83, which deals with life of the House, which could only be terminated according to the laid down provisions, either on it completing a full term of five years or dissolution by the President on recommendation of the Prime Minister.

Mr Singh said even if an MP, belonging to either Houses, was to be disqualified as per the provisions of the Representation of People Act, it has to be done on the recommendations of the Election Commission.

The apex court, empowered to define the Constitution, agreed with his contention that the matter had to be examined to see whether the scope of Article 105 was “exhaustive or limited”.

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