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2017 Gutkha Display Row- Madras High Court Quashes Fresh Notice On Breach Of Privilege Issued Against MK Stalin And Other DMK MLAs

Nupur Thapliyal
10 Feb 2021 4:10 PM GMT
2017 Gutkha Display Row- Madras High Court Quashes Fresh Notice On Breach Of Privilege Issued Against MK Stalin And Other DMK MLAs
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The Madras High Court on Wednesday set aside fresh show cause notices issued to 19 DMK MLAs by the Tamil Nadu Assembly's privileges committee on breach of privilege for displaying gutkha sachets and photographs, causing disorder and disrepute to the Assembly proceedings. A single judge bench comprising of Justice Pushpa Sathyanarayana delivered the judgement by allowing the writ petition...

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The Madras High Court on Wednesday set aside fresh show cause notices issued to 19 DMK MLAs by the Tamil Nadu Assembly's privileges committee on breach of privilege for displaying gutkha sachets and photographs, causing disorder and disrepute to the Assembly proceedings.

A single judge bench comprising of Justice Pushpa Sathyanarayana delivered the judgement by allowing the writ petition filed by M.K. Stalin challenging the fresh show cause notices issued dated 07.09.2020 with a prayer of quashing the same.

The factual matrix of the case dates back to 19.07.2017 wherein some gutkha sachets and photographs of some shops allegedly selling gutkha were brought inside the House. Thereafter, the matter was sent by the Speaker of the House to the privileges committee for examining the case and submitting a report. A show cause notice was issued on 28th August 2017 by the Secretary of Legislative Assembly considering the breach of privilege by bringing "prohibited items" in the House.

However, the High Court vide order dated 25.08.2020 quashed the earlier notice by holding that it suffered from "foundational error".

Fresh show cause notice was then issued on 07.09.2020 which mentioned that the privileges committee had, after discussing the issue at length, purpose of protecting the Legislative Assembly's Discipline, Value and uniqueness, decided to initiate action for breach of Privilege.

The High Court, while referring to the earlier decision of the High Court quashing first notice, observed that:

"The alleged breach of privilege of not obtaining permission from the first respondent precedes the act of displaying or exhibiting the banned products inside the House. When the second act of displaying is already held to be an act not prohibited under the notification, the required permission, when not codified or mentioned anywhere does not arise. Thus, the Privilege Committee cannot now under the scope of reference on its own to include the alleged permission, disturbance, etc., caused in the Assembly."

However while observing so, the bench went ahead to observe that even though the High Court in the earlier judgment gave liberty to the privilege committee for deliberating upon the issue of breach of privilege, such direction cannot be taken as an advantage by the Committee for "expanding the scope of reference to issue show cause notice."

"Every person has a right to fair trial by a competent and impartial Tribunal, whereas, in the breach of privilege laws, the Members of the Legislature became Judges in their own cause raising concerns of conflict of interest and violating basic principles of fair trial. One of such actions is now before this Court for the judicial review of legislative action. When it comes to administrative law, judicial review of administrative action becomes vital part of it." Court observed at the outset.

The Court while allowing the writ petition, quashed the fresh show cause notice issued by the Legislative Assembly.

In doing so, the Court concluded the judgment by quoting Tamil Poet and Philosopher Thiruvalluvar:

"Those with pure mind and studied eloquence, Should use words that suit the audience."

Click Here To Download Judgment

[Read Judgment]


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