CHENNAI: All the 21 DMK MLAs, including M K Stalin, Leader of the Opposition, against whom the Privileges Committee of the Tamil Nadu Assembly had issued show cause notices (SCNs) seeking explanation for their act of waving packets containing gutka, which was banned in the State, in the Assembly on July 19, have moved the Madras High Court challenging the notices.
According to the petitioners, during the debate on the Appropriation Bill, the Speaker on July 8 allowed Stalin to raise the issue. In the course of his speech on July 19, to highlight the flagrant violation of the ban on gutka and to substantiate the allegation made in his earlier speech on July 8, Stalin and other DMK members exhibited packets of the contraband as evidence that it was still easily available in the market despite the State having banned it in 2013.
It was done with a view to drawing the attention to the fact that a banned substance was being sold and distributed openly and in public interest and good faith to highlight the larger issue involved.
However, the Speaker unilaterally referred the matter to the Privileges Committee the same day without giving any opportunity to the DMK members to address the House on the allegation of breach of privilege. The committee took no action on this issue for almost 40 days until 19 legislators in the T T V Dhinakaran camp expressed their lack of confidence in the present chief minister on August 22.
The committee met on August 28 and issued the SCNs to all the 21 members. Even the notices did not set out how the matter pertained to privileges of the House.The timing of the notices is not innocuous or coincidental. The sole motive for taking action appears to be to prevent DMK MLAs from exercising their legal and constitutional right to vote at the floor test that is likely to be conducted in the Assembly.
Therefore, the act of displaying gutka packets, is an act of public service, to point out the fallacious claims of its non-availability to the public, the petitioners contended and sought quashing of the notices. The interim prayer is to stay their operation.