19 May 2010

Legislature cannot expel Chief Minister: Supreme Court

Giving relief to Amarinder Singh, a Constitutional Bench of the Supreme Court in a recent decision has declared that it is beyond the competence of a State Legislature to expel a member of Legislative Assembly in exercise of its 'power and privileges' as provided for under the Indian Constitution. 

Holding that the expulsion has been carried out by the Punjab Legislative Assembly for the alleged misconduct of the Chief Minister, for which the exercise of powers relating to breach of privilege were unwarranted and also referring to its earlier decisions on the scope and ambit of legislative powers (especially as laid out in Raja Ram Pal v. Hon'ble Speaker, Lok Sabha), the constitutional provisions and the origin and development of the legislatures' power and privileges, the Constitutional Bench declared the position of law in its conclusion as under;

(i) If there were any irregularities committed by the appellant and the petitioners in relation to the exemption of land (notified on 13-1-2006) from the Amritsar Improvement Scheme, the proper course of action on part of the State Government should have been to move the criminal law machinery with the filing of a complaint followed by investigation as contemplated under the Code of Criminal Procedure. It is our considered view that the Punjab Vidhan Sabha exceeded its powers by expelling the appellant on the ground of a breach of privilege when there existed none. The allegedly improper exemption of land was an executive act attributable to the appellant and it did not distort, obstruct or threaten the integrity of legislative proceedings in any manner. Hence, the exercise of legislative privileges under Article 194(3) of the Constitution was not proper in the present case.
(ii) Furthermore, the allegedly improper exemption of land took place during the 12th term of the Punjab Vidhan Sabha, whereas the constitution of the Special Committee to inquire into the same took place during the 13th term. It was not proper for the Assembly to inquire into actions that took place during its previous term, especially when there was no relatable business that had lapsed from the previous term. If we were to permit the legislature to exercise privileges for acting against members for their executive acts during previous terms, the Courts are likely to be flooded with cases involving political rivalries. One can conceive that whenever there is a change of regime, the fresh incumbents would readily fall back on the device of legislative privileges to expel their political opponents as well as dissidents. Such a scenario would frustrate some of the basic objectives of a parliamentary democracy.
(iii) When it was well known that the allegedly improper exemption of land from the Amritsar Improvement Scheme was the subject-matter of proceedings instituted before the High Court of Punjab and Haryana, the Punjab Vidhan Sabha should have refrained from dealing with the same subject-matter.

1 comment:

Dinah said...

ohhh very impressive....