Raghav Chadha ‘indefinite suspension’ case hearing | CJI says we have lost our sense of humour in public life

Exclusion of members of the Opposition from the House is a very serious matter. He (Raghav Chadha) is a representative of a constituency, CJI tells Attorney- General of India

Updated - October 31, 2023 08:06 am IST

Published - October 30, 2023 07:35 pm IST - NEW DELHI

AAP leader Raghav Chadha. File

AAP leader Raghav Chadha. File | Photo Credit: PTI

Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud on Monday commented on the “death of sense of humour in public life” while questioning the “indefinite suspension” slapped on Raghav Chadha, Rajya Sabha member from the Aam Aadmi Party, for his casual quip to the media.

A reason for suspending Mr. Chadha for breach of privilege was his remark at a press conference that he had sent “birthday invitation cards” to other members to join a select committee for the GNCTD (Amendment) Bill 2023. Mr. Chadha was accused of inviting these members without taking their consent.

“That we have lost our sense of humour in public life is a separate thing altogether... What he obviously meant by ‘sending birthday invitation cards’ is that the members could either come or not come... Does that really, really reduce the dignity of the House and cause a breach of privilege?” the Chief Justice asked Attorney-General R. Venkataramani.

Mr. Venkataramani indicated that such remarks did lower the process of the House.

“Mr. Venkataramani would not have done it, but…,” Chief Justice Chandrachud intervened.

“If Mr. Venkataramani could not have done it, Mr. Raghav Chadha also cannot do it,” the top government law officer interjected.

Also Read | Suspended from Rajya Sabha for asking BJP tough questions, says Chadha

But the Chief Justice, heading a three-judge Bench, said that was certainly not the test for invoking breach of privilege.

“Exclusion of members of the Opposition from the House is a very serious matter. He (Chadha) is a representative of a constituency. He is a representative of a viewpoint which may not be consistent with the views of the government. Care must be taken not to exclude such voices from the Parliament,” Chief Justice Chandrachud observed.

The court said slapping an indefinite suspension on a member was a “very serious matter for us as a constitutional court”.

“The Parliament must have voices from across the spectrum, and that is why this indefinite suspension is a matter of concern,” Chief Justice Chandrachud said.

The court asked whether the Rajya Sabha Chairman would accept if Mr. Chadha was “ready and willing” to apologise.

Mr. Venkataramani said the Rajya Sabha Chairperson had suspended Mr. Chadha pending the inquiry by the Privileges Committee following a resolution passed by the House itself.

At one point, the CJI questioned the source of power to suspend an MP indefinitely. The Chief Justice pointed out that Mr. Chadha even ran the risk of not attending the Winter Session due shortly.

Also Read | AAP’s Raghav Chadha changes X bio to ‘Suspended Member of Parliament’

The Chief Justice prima facie agreed with Mr. Chadha, represented by senior advocate Rakesh Dwivedi and advocate Shadan Farasat, that Rules 256 and 266 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the Council of States (‘Rajya Sabha Rules’) mandated suspension only till the end of the session.

“The power to suspend is meant only to be used as a shield and not as a sword, i.e. it cannot be penal. The power to suspend indefinitely is dangerously open to excess and abuse,” Mr. Chadha’s petition submitted.

Mr. Chadha was suspended on August 11, the last day of the Monsoon Session of Parliament, for “gross violation of rule, misconduct, defiant attitude and contemptuous conduct”.

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