Breach of privilege proceedings can be remitted back to the Legislative Assembly, A-G tells Madras High Court

He urges the judges to ignore an earlier request made by another law officer seeking permission to withdraw the appeals filed by the Assembly Secretary and the Privileges Committee in 2021

Published - July 09, 2024 08:56 pm IST - CHENNAI

Since the 15th Legislative Assembly was dissolved by the Governor in May 2021, all proceedings initiated during its tenure would also stand lapsed unless they had reached finality or a logical conclusion, the A-G said.

Since the 15th Legislative Assembly was dissolved by the Governor in May 2021, all proceedings initiated during its tenure would also stand lapsed unless they had reached finality or a logical conclusion, the A-G said.

Advocate General P.S. Raman on Tuesday told the Madras High Court that the 2017 breach of privilege proceedings initiated against incumbent Chief Minister M.K. Stalin and a few other DMK MLAs for displaying gutkha sachets in the Legislative Assembly can be remitted back to the House and its Privileges Committee for being considered in accordance with law.

Appearing before a Division Bench of Justices S.M. Subramaniam and C. Kumarappan, the A-G urged the judges to ignore a request made by another law officer on June 26, 2024 for withdrawing a batch of writ appeals filed by the Assembly Secretary as well as the Privileges Committee in 2021 against a single judge’s December 2020 order in favour of the DMK MLAs.

Mr. Raman said, since the 15th Legislative Assembly was dissolved by the Governor in May 2021, all proceedings initiated during its tenure would also stand lapsed unless they had reached finality or a logical conclusion. He said, the privilege proceedings alone could be continued by the next Assembly if the committee concerned had submitted a final report after hearing the parties concerned.

However, in the present case, the single judge of the High Court had quashed the show cause notices issued by the Privileges Committee to the MLAs and therefore the proceedings had not attained finality, he pointed out. At this point, Justice Subramaniam said, his Bench was doubtful as to whether the court could interfere in such matters related to the legislature at the stage of show cause notice.

“If every show cause notice issued for alleged breach of privilege of the House is quashed by the High Court, where is the question of separation of powers between the legislature and the judiciary? Can courts interfere in such matters at the show cause notice stage? That exactly is our concern. If we allow this judgement (of the single judge) to remain, it will set a wrong precedent,” the senior judge in the Bench said.

Understanding the concern of the judges, the A-G said, the court could dispose of the present writ appeals by referring the matter back to the present Speaker for an appropriate decision in accordance with the rules of the Legislative Assembly. “The best option is to leave this matter to be decided by the committee. Your Lordships may say that it will be open to the House to take whatever action it wants to take,” he said.

Appreciating the A-G for being fair to the court, the judge said, they would pass detailed orders on the writ appeals at a later date. Mr. Stalin was the Leader of the Opposition in 2017 when he and his party MLAs had displayed gutkha sachets in the House for highlighting the availability of the banned product in every other petty shop in the State.

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