CHENNAI: The Madras High Court on Wednesday quashed the fresh breach of privilege notices issued by the Tamil Nadu Assembly privileges committee in September 2020 to 18 DMK MLAs including the opposition leader M K Stalin for displaying banned gutka sachets in the Assembly in 2017.
On September 7, the Assembly privileges committee issued fresh notices to the 18 MLAs. This was after the first bench of the high court set aside the earlier notice and granted liberty to the committee to commence the proceedings afresh if it feels so. The DMK MLAs again moved the high court challenging the fresh notices.
During the hearing, the state contended that the earlier notices were issued for bringing ‘prohibited’ materials inside the House. But the present notice is for bringing gutka packets and displaying them in the assembly without prior permission of the speaker.
Justice Pushpa Sathyanarayana in Wednesday's order also recalled an observation of the earlier high court order. It observed that "...when there are no clearly laid out rules and what constitutes a breach of privilege and what punishment it entails, it could not be stated that the petitioners ought to have obtained permission from the first respondent(speaker)."
The judge also referred to the rules of the Tamil Nadu assembly. "Rule 223 states that once consent is given by the Hon'ble Speaker holding that the matter proposed to be discussed warrant interference of the House, he may at his discretion call the Member concerned to make a short statement relevant thereto. However, the provisos to Rule 223 contemplates affording an opportunity to the Member to explain briefly why the matter requires intervention of the House and also to the Member against whom, the matter is sought to be raised by the Member. However, in the case of the petitioners, Rule 223 has not been followed and no opportunity was afforded to the petitioners," she said.