Special Correspondent

To discuss court notice to Speaker on MPs' expulsion

NEW DELHI: The all-party meeting of leaders called by Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee here on Friday has on its agenda a major constitutional question - the power of the legislature versus the judiciary.

The subject has become all the more significant as the Supreme Court has ordered issuing of notice to Mr. Chatterjee, through the Secretary-General of the Lok Sabha, in connection with its decision to set up a Constitution bench to consider issues raised in petitions filed by former Lok Sabha members challenging their expulsion from the House.

While almost all political parties have already signalled that they are ready to defend Parliament's jurisdiction over matters relating to the conduct of its own members - and this includes some of the opposition National Democratic Alliance parties - the Bharatiya Janata Party has made some contrary noises but has finally decided to attend the meeting called by the Speaker.

Besides leaders of all the major political parties, Mr. Chatterjee has asked eminent lawyers Fali S. Nariman and T.R. Andhyarujina to attend the meeting as special invitees.

On Thursday even the BJP began showing signs of falling into step with the other parties when party leader Arun Jaitley said "no speaker has ever appeared before a court in response to a notice" and that "Parliament had every right to expel its members." He was referring to the issue related to the expulsion of 11 MPs after they were caught on camera in a sting operation taking cash for the favour of asking questions. The BJP in the Lok Sabha, led by Leader of the Opposition L.K. Advani, had "disassociated" itself from the expulsion and walked out when the resolution on the expulsion was voted on.

While earlier BJP's deputy leader in the Lok Sabha V.K. Malhotra had objected to the procedure adopted by the Lok Sabha committee that recommended expulsion, Mr. Jaitley has now said that in his opinion the "procedure" adopted by Parliament cannot be questioned in any court of law, but what is to be seen is whether Parliament did have the right to expel members on grounds of misconduct. His view was that the expulsion should have been on grounds of violation of privilege.

The main opposition party has also expressed the apprehension that any direct questioning of the court's notice would lead to a "confrontation between the legislature and the judiciary" and this must be avoided. On the other hand some parties are of the view that the judiciary must also know what its jurisdiction is and learn to respect the jurisdiction of the legislature.