New Delhi, Jan. 9: Setting the stage for a possible confrontation between the judiciary and the legislature, Delhi High Court today issued a notice to Parliament, seeking an explanation for the expulsion of 11 MPs.
The MPs were expelled for involvement in the cash-for-questions scandal.
Notices were also issued to the Election Commission and the Centre, asking the respondents to file replies in two weeks.
Eight of the MPs had gone to court against the expulsion. The court refused to grant interim relief to the expelled MPs and posted the matter for hearing on February 16.
The notices were issued a day after Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee said the “court had no business interfering in Parliament’s decisions”.
A cautious Abhishek Singhvi, Congress spokesperson, said: “It cannot be said that the court cannot even look at the matter. However, actual judicial review is highly circumscribed and limited to interference on the grounds of extreme perversity. Full procedure and natural justice having been followed, there is no case of perversity.”
Arun Jaitley of the BJP said the party had foreseen the possibility of the judiciary stepping into the matter.
“This is precisely why we had asked for the matter to be studied by Parliament’s privileges committee so it could be settled within the House,” he said.
Chatterjee’s opinion is backed by senior practitioners of constitutional law who said courts did not have the authority to decide on punishment for MPs or MLAs for their conduct as legislators.
“Only if the court finds that the fundamental rights of the dismissed MPs have been violated, can it step in,” said P.P. Rao, an expert in constitutional law. Unless such violation was found, Parliament, he said, had the “sole privilege” to decide the punishment.
All doubts as to who would decide punishment for misconduct by parliamentarians was settled in the early fifties, experts said, when Congress MP H.G. Mudgal was expelled for accepting money in return for asking questions.
“The apex court had decided that it had limited jurisdiction in the matter. In this case, too, it is a matter of privilege of the House to decide,” said Rao.