2 Jun 2023 9:08 AM GMT
The Supreme Court, on Friday, stayed the order of the Madras High Court, Madurai Bench restraining the Joint Parliamentary Committee on the Forest (Conversation) Amendment Bill 2023 from proceedings in terms of the press communique issued by it, which had invited suggestions and objections from the public at large and NGOs/experts/stakeholders and institution.The Madras High Court had passed...
The Supreme Court, on Friday, stayed the order of the Madras High Court, Madurai Bench restraining the Joint Parliamentary Committee on the Forest (Conversation) Amendment Bill 2023 from proceedings in terms of the press communique issued by it, which had invited suggestions and objections from the public at large and NGOs/experts/stakeholders and institution.
The Madras High Court had passed the impugned order in a writ petition filed by one Theeran Thirumurugan seeking direction for translating the bill in Tamil and for accepting suggestions in Tamil language. The High Court noted that though it does not want to stall an important amendment bill, it was necessary to put it on hold to explore the possibility of publishing translated copies of the Amendment Bill as well as Press Communique in all the vernacular languages of the country.
A vacation Bench comprising Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Pankaj Mithal considered an affidavit filed by the Lok Sabha Secretariat vouching to publish the Tamil version of the Bill and the assurance of the Solicitor General of India, Tushar Mehta that the original writ petitioner would be granted 7 days time to lodge his objections/suggestions. In view of the same, the Bench thought it fit to stay the order of the High Court. It also issued notice in the petition filed by the Union Government.
“In any event the Lok Sabha Secretariat has indicated in an affidavit dated 01.06.2023 that it would proceed to publish the Tamil version of the Bill by Monday (5th June, 2023) so as to enable the petitioner to lodge objections. In view of the aforesaid statement in affidavit and assurance of the Solicitor that the respondent would be granted 7 days time to lodge his objections, we stay the operation of impugned order", the bench noted in the order.
The Solicitor General apprised the Bench that the Central Government is amending the Forest Conservation Act and a Bill was prepared in this regard. He submitted that the Bill was sent to the Parliament and the Parliament thought it fit to send it to the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC). The JPC decided to have wider consultation before publishing its report. Hence it decided to hold public hearings. The Solicitor General submitted that the respondent (original writ petitioner) approached the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court with a contention that the Bill is published only in English and Hindi and sought it to be published in Tamil as well. He informed the Bench that by way of an interim order, the High Court stayed the JPC’s Press communique.
“What is stayed is the publication of notice by the JPC. I am not going into the fact that the High Court might not have the jurisdiction. There is public hearing in J&K. The JPC is there, they are waiting, the people have also come to give their suggestions and objections,” the Solicitor General submitted.
The Solicitor General argued, “The Parliament’s language is Hindi and English. Parliament filed an affidavit in the proceedings saying that without making it a precedent, we will publish in Tamil also. The basic cause of action now goes.”
He sought the Apex Court’s indulgence in staying the interim order passed by the High Court as it ought not to have interfered with the legislative process.
Justice Datta enquired, “Will the JPC hold sittings in every part of the country?”
The Solicitor General responded, “No. Only selected regions.”
The Judge further enquired, “Would it be holding sitting in Tamil Nadu?”
The Solicitor General responded in the negative. He submitted -
“JPC calls some individuals and hears them. There is no system of JPC going everywhere and JPC inviting objections. Considering this time they have decided.”
Justice Datta said, “Don’t hold a hearing anywhere then. That is one way of doing this.”
Justice Mithal opined, “Filing of the objection would be meaningless if they are not heard.”
The Solicitor General submitted, “There is no question of hearing anyone, This is a legislative process, not administrative process or quasi-judicial process.”
Justice Datta reckoned, “But once you devise a procedure to give hearing to one class of persons, can you say I will not hear the others.”
The Solicitor General averred, “JPC could not have done this. In legislative action, hearing is completely out. But the High Court could not have stayed the JPC. Kindly stay the High Court’s order, if required we will not hear anyone.”
Case : Union of India vs Theeran Thirumurugan and ors
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