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House keeps out court

New Delhi, Jan. 20: In a move that could get Parliament and judiciary eyeball to eyeball, Somnath Chatterjee has decided not to accept any notice from the courts in the MPs’ expulsion case or appear before them.

An all-party meeting convened by the Lok Sabha Speaker today spoke “in one voice” that the notices should be “respectfully” returned, but made it clear it was not a “confrontationist move”.

“I wish to record that all the leaders unanimously have said the Speaker should neither appear in court nor receive the notice,” Chatterjee said after the meeting with 25 leaders and seven ministers.

Ten Lok Sabha MPs and a Rajya Sabha MP were booted out last month after they were caught on camera accepting cash to ask questions in the House. Some moved the Supreme Court and Delhi High Court for redress.

Chatterjee said there was no doubt that Parliament was “supreme to decide the question of punishment of its members for wrongful conduct” and no court of law had any jurisdiction in the matter.

“I feel it would be proper if the court had first decided whether it had the authority to issue notice to the Speaker on a matter clearly indicated by the Constitution as the exclusive domain of the legislature,” he said.

“Let us keep within our lakshman rekha.”

The Speaker buttressed his argument by citing the JMM bribery case, saying the Supreme Court had refused to intervene when then MP Shibu Soren was paid to vote against the Narasimha Rao government.

“In the JMM case, the Supreme Court had decided only Parliament can deal with matters of discipline of its members. The present case also involves individual members,” he said.

This is not the first time that Chatterjee will be standing his ground against the court. Last February, he had protested when the Supreme Court questioned the Jharkhand governor’s decision to invite the Congress to form government after the polls threw up a hung House.

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