Privilege notices to DMK MLAs: HC says quashing of Assembly decision by judge is dangerous precedent

Division bench concurs with Advocate General’s submission that matter be remitted to the House for taking fresh call
Madras High Court
Madras High Court(File photo| Express)

CHENNAI: There is separation of powers between the judiciary and the legislature and the court interfering and quashing the orders of the Assembly is a dangerous precedent, said the Madras High Court on Tuesday.

The remarks were made by a division bench of Justices SM Subramaniam and C Kumarappan while hearing the appeal filed by the Tamil Nadu Assembly Secretary against an order of a single judge who quashed the breach of privilege notices issued to 18 DMK MLAs, including the current Chief Minister MK Stalin, for sneaking gutkha sachets into the Assembly as part of a protest in 2017.

“It is a dangerous precedent that the court interfered and quashed the notice when privilege proceedings were not completed,” the bench said.

It concurred with the submissions of Advocate General (AG) PS Raman that the matter shall be remitted back to the Speaker and the current Privileges Committee.

“We have to leave it to the House to decide whether the prohibited matters (gutkha sachets) can be brought in and create the ruckus,” the bench stated.

The AG submitted that the 15th Assembly was dissolved in May 2021 and the proceedings of the sub-committees lapsed with the exception of the final reports of the Privileges Committee.

“The best option is to leave the matter to the present committee to decide (afresh),” he told the bench.

The bench said its concern is that the powers of the legislature shall not be encroached upon. If the Assembly’s orders and proceedings are judicially reviewed, then what are the powers of the Assembly for, the bench asked? It reserved the orders on the matter.

The appeal pertains to the issue of privilege notices issued to the DMK MLAs for displaying gutkha sachets in the House. Based on the petitions filed by DMK members, a single judge quashed the notice and directed the committee to issue fresh notices as per law. Subsequently, fresh notices were issued, they were also quashed by the court. Challenging this decision, the Assembly Secretary and the Privileges Committee filed the appeal when the AIADMK was in power.

Since the DMK came back to power, the secretary attempted to withdraw the appeals. When the division bench, in a previous hearing, questioned the rationale behind the move, the AG informed the court that the privilege notices had become infructuous since the committee had lapsed after the dissolution of the previous Assembly.

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