M A I N   N E W S

Speaker to return notice
Parliament decision ‘supreme’, says all-party meet
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 20
The legislature and the judiciary is heading on a collision course with the all-party meeting convened by the Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee decided to “return” the notice issued by the courts in cash-for-query scam.

However, the lone voice with a different perspective was that of the BJP. "It is his (Speaker) decision (not to accept or respond to the notices). But, we believe the court should give a view on the constitutionality and legality of the issue," party's Deputy Leader in the Lok Sabha V K Malhotra told reporters.

All parties, including the BJP, however, was of the view that the decision of the House to expel 11 MPs, caught on camera accepting money for raising questions in Parliament, “was supreme.”

“To challenge the expulsion, one has to also challenge the decision of individual members, who exercised their preferences,” Somnath Chatterjee said in a combative mood, after securing the support of political parties in the meeting called to discuss the Supreme Court and the Delhi High Court notices on petitions from the expelled MPs challenging the move.

“Certain powers are given exclusively to Parliament by the Constitution,” he said and maintained that expulsions were “within the parameters of the House.”

He said the Constitution was "clear" on the jurisdiction of the pillars of democracy. "Let us keep within our lakshman rekha (limit)," the Speaker said, in a thinly veiled warning to the judiciary to lay off the issue.

"There are two mutually contradictory high court decisions. While the Madhya Pradesh High Court says Parliament has the power to expel the MPs, the Punjab and Haryana High court verdict says otherwise. We welcome the apex court's decision to refer the matter to a Constitution Bench and it should give its view," Malhotra said.

The BJP, which had staged a walkout in the Lok Sabha against the procedure adopted for expulsion, said it had suggested to the Speaker at the all-party meeting earlier in the day that his office may accept the notices and an advocate can present his views before the court.

The Speaker said, “even if I go there, that cannot lead to the honourable court to assume or to exercise the power in respect of those matters exclusively conferred on Parliament.”

“It is not the position of the Speaker, it is the position of the individual members of the House. When the vote was taken, I did not exercise a vote. I only announced that a motion that had been moved by the leader of the House had been carried and had been approved by the House. That was my announcement,” the Speaker pointed out.

An eminent lawyer himself, he argued that challenging the decision on the expulsion of MPs in a court of law tantamounts to challenging the validity of the exercise of votes by MPs inside the House. Even the Constitution prohibits the courts from doing so, he said.

"I decided that this is a matter which really concerned the members of the House more than the Speaker," he said.

The Speaker said he would make a statement on the issue in the House at the start of the Budget session when it meets on February 16.

He said a meeting of Presiding Officers of all state legislatures has been convened on February 4 to discuss the cash-for-query scam.

Ten members of the Lok Sabha and one member of Rajya Sabha were expelled last month after an inquiry by House Committees, which held them guilty of accepting money for raising questions, and recommended their expulsion. They were caught on camera in a sting operation carried out by a website cobrpost.com. Six of the MPs were from the BJP, three from the BSP and one each from the RJD and the Congress.

One of the expelled Lok Sabha members challenged the House decision in the Supreme Court, which has referred the matter to the Constitution Bench and also issued notices to the Speaker, Government and the Attorney-General on the issue. Some of the members had approached the Delhi High Court, which had also issued notices to the Speaker and others.

The meeting was attended by 25 party leaders, including seven ministers. They included Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee, who is also the Leader of the Lok Sabha, Parliamentary Affairs Minister P R Dasmunsi and Kapil Sibal, who attended "more as a lawyer to express his views", Chatterjee said, adding that two eminent lawyers Fali S Nariman and T R Andhyarujina were also present as special invitees.


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