CHENNAI: The first bench of the Madras High Court on Tuesday set aside the breach of motion proceedings by the Assembly panel initiated against 21 DMK MLAs including MK Stalin for waving gutka packets in the Assembly in 2017. The high court held that the breach of privilege notice issued against 21 legislators suffers 'foundational errors'.
However, the bench granted liberty to the privilege committee to initiate proceedings if it still feels that the act by the MLAs inside the house amounts to a breach of privilege.
On August 28, 2017, Opposition Leader and DMK president MK Stalin with 20 other MLAs of the party faced privilege motion for having brought packets of 'gutkha' into the Assembly to show that it was easy to bring the banned goods.
The state government on May 23, 2017, issued a government order on the prohibition against the manufacture, storage, transportation and the sale of contraband goods.
The MLAs then moved the high court against the privilege motion initiated. In the meantime, two MLAs J Anbazhagan and KPP Samy have passed away. The court then granted an interim stay in 2018.
The division bench recommenced the hearings after the advocate-general Vijay Narayan and government pleader V Jayaprakash Narayan made a mention before the first bench that the 21 MLAs are enjoying an interim order granted by the court staying further proceeding in the privilege motion for over three years now.
After hearing for three days continuously from August 12 through video conferencing, the high court on Tuesday pronounced its 166-page orders on the plea.
The first bench comprising Chief Justice AP Sahi and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy in its order, "The issuance of the impugned notice of breach of privilege dated August 28, 2017, based on the incident dated July 19, 2017, suffers from a foundational error of assuming the conduct of the petitioners to be prohibited by the notification dated May 23, 2017, and we hold accordingly."
The court further observed, "The petitioners cannot be proceeded against on the strength of the impugned notices dated August 28, 2017, by treating their conduct on July 19, 2017, of displaying Gutkha sachets and photographs as being violative of any prohibitory law particularly the notification dated May 23, 2017."
On the contentions that the constitution of the Committee is bound to result in injustice, the court said, "The said Committee, has been constituted and reconstituted in the past three years and none of the Committees had to consider the issue before it on account of the interim orders that have been passed in favour of the petitioners."
It further added that to construe and presume that the same mala fides continue today and the reconstitution of the Committees does not make any difference. With the observations made, the court ordered that all the writ petitions are partly allowed and stand disposed of.