Legal Correspondent

An incident on the right to regulate its own affairs, including the power to punish members

  • Legislatures out of necessity must insist on integrity of members
  • Expulsions instil faith in legislatures

    New Delhi: The Centre on Wednesday defended the expulsion of 11 MPs involved in the cash-for-query scam, saying Parliament had the power to expel a member for conduct, which might offend the House, or for behaviour which interfered with its proceedings.

    Senior counsel T.R. Andhyarujina, appearing for the Centre, made this submission before a five-judge Constitution Bench hearing a batch of petitions challenging the constitutional validity of the expulsion 10 Lok Sabha members and one Rajya Sabha member.

    Mr. Andhyarujina said Parliament derived its power and privilege from the House of Commons under Article 105 (3) and the State Legislatures derived their power under Article 194 (3) of the Constitution. Normally court would not interfere with such powers. The expulsion power was an incident on the right of the House to regulate its own affairs, including the power to punish its members.

    Mr. Andhyarujina said:

    "Parliament has powers as are necessary for its due and orderly exercise of its functions and for protecting itself from all impediments to the discharge of its functions so that it can function with dignity, integrity and efficiency.

    "The proper discharge of the legislative functions of a House of Legislature depends not only on the orderly function of its business without obstruction but also requires the honesty and probity of its members. Legislatures out of necessity must insist on the integrity of their members. Parliament cannot permit members whose conduct is such as to render them unfit to perform their responsibilities and functions in Parliament as their continued presence would tend to bring the House into disrepute and would lower its authority and dignity."Parliamentary proceedings require the existence of mutual trust and confidence amongst members. It would be a grave impediment to its functioning, if there were amongst its members those whose conduct has demonstrated that they are unworthy of such trust and confidence.

    "Expulsions assure the public that those who have abused their office would not be tolerated and instil faith and confidence in representative legislatures. Nothing would be more disastrous to the working of parliamentary democracies than to see representatives of the people lacking in integrity or abusing their position and legislatures remaining helpless to take action against them."

    Counsel said Parliament, despite these privileges, had shown restraint and the power of expulsion was exercised only on two occasions in the past, viz two in Lok Sabha and one in Rajya Sabha. The power of expulsion "is as vital for legislatures as maintaining their proceedings from obstruction and interference, particularly when their misconduct is connected with their parliamentary duties, e.g. acceptance of bribes. If they do not take preventive action against such members, the functioning of the legislatures would be affected and public confidence in legislatures would be undermined."

    Counsel will continue his arguments on Thursday before the Bench comprising Chief Justice Y.K. Sabharwal, Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, Justice C.K. Thakker, Justice R.V. Raveendran and Justice D.K. Jain.