Further hearing of the case posted to April 16

The Madras High Court on Wednesday ordered private notice to the Speaker of the Tamil Nadu Assembly on a writ petition by six DMDK MLAs challenging their suspension from the House for six months.

Justice S. Rajeswaran posted the case for further hearing on April 16.

In the joint affidavit, the legislators V.C. Chandhira Kumar, P. Parthasarthi, T. Murugesan, K. Nallathambi, S. Senthilkumar and R. Arulselvan sought a writ to declare the proceedings of the privileges committee and the Assembly resolution of March 25 and 26 as illegal and against the principles of natural justice.

Originally, the petitioners were suspended for a year. Later, the period of suspension was reduced to six months.

Petitioners' objection

The petitioners’ foremost objection was that none of them was issued notice of alleged breach of privilege by the committee before making an enquiry, investigation and submission of reports.

It was a well-established principle of law that judicial review of privilege proceedings could be made for non-compliance of principles of natural justice. The basic law was that no one should be condemned unheard. Nowhere in the Assembly rule were appropriate safeguards provided for conducting an enquiry incorporating the rules of natural justice. However, there was no specific provision denying natural justice.

The petitioners said the Assembly session is on till May 16. The order passed could not overlook the legal provision relating to disqualification of a member from not attending the Assembly for 60 days, which would automatically disqualify him and the seat should be vacated. The impugned order taking away the salary and other allowances of the petitioners was not only ultra vires, but also inconsistent with the statute.

It was an arbitrary exercise of power without jurisdiction.

If the Assembly felt that the punishment of one year suspension awarded originally was disproportionate, it was not known how the decision to reduce the sentence to six months would be proportionate.

The MLAs said that they had not been given a copy of the House resolution.

In the order, Mr.Justice Rajeswaran said he had heard the petitioner’s counsel, K.M.Vijayan and the Advocate-General, A.L.Somayaji, appearing for the Assembly Secretariat, represented by Secretary.

Since nobody represented the Speaker, notice had to be sent to him privately by the petitioner’s counsel, he said.

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