J. Venkatesan

Matter should be placed before a five-judge Constitution Bench, it says

Notice issued to Election Commission, Centre, Attorney-General Petitioner's plea to restrain EC from holding election to vacant seat declined Lok Sabha cannot expel on grounds not provided in Constitution: Petitioner's counsel

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday issued notice to the Lok Sabha Speaker through the Lok Sabha Secretary-General on a petition filed by Rajaram Pal (Bahujan Samaj Party), who was expelled from the House following the "cash for queries" sting operation conducted by a television channel. Stating that the issue needed examination, a three-judge Bench comprising Chief Justice Y. K. Sabharwal, Justice C.K. Thakker and Justice R.V. Raveendran also issued notice to Attorney-General Milon K. Banerjee to assist the court in determining the important questions raised in the petition.

The Bench also issued notice to the Election Commission and the Centre and directed that the matter be placed before a five-judge Constitution Bench. The Bench declined the petitioner's plea to restrain the Election Commission from holding the election to the vacant seat on account of his expulsion.

Appearing for the petitioner, counsel K.S. Chauhan argued that the Lok Sabha could not expel a Member on the grounds that were not provided under Articles 101 to 103 (particularly 102) of the Constitution. He said the grounds of disqualification provided under Article 102 and under Section 8 of the Representation of the People Act were exhaustive in nature. He contended that the important question to be determined was whether Parliament could disqualify a Member for reasons other than those contemplated in the Constitution.

To a question from the Bench whether the apex court had laid down a law on this issue, counsel said only the Punjab and Haryana High Court had an occasion to deal with an expulsion issue and that the apex court had not dealt with a similar issue.

The petitioner contended that the issue of expulsion of a Member could not be decided by the Lok Sabha itself without taking the opinion of the Election Commission. He said the Pawan Kumar Bansal Committee summoned him for enquiry and he gave a written reply. The committee by a majority of 4:1 recommended the expulsion, thus violating the principles of natural justice. He further contended that the committee was extra-constitutional, as the Privileges Committee was constituted in compliance of Article 105 of the Constitution. Neither the Constitution nor an enactment of Parliament provided for the power of expulsion. He sought the quashing of the notification issued on December 23, 2005 expelling him on the ground that it was illegal and arbitrary. An interim stay to restrain the Election Commission from holding elections for the vacant seat was also sought.