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House matters off court limits

delhi Updated: Mar 30, 2010 00:38 IST
Satya Prakash
Satya Prakash
Hindustan Times
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Sticking to constitutional provisions with regard to the legislature, the Supreme Court on Monday ruled that any irregularity in the proceedings of either House of Parliament was beyond judicial review.

“It is a right of each House of Parliament to be the sole judge of the lawfulness of its own proceedings. The courts cannot go into the lawfulness of the proceedings of the Houses of Parliament,” a five-judge constitution bench headed by Chief Justice K G Balakrishanan said.

The bench dismissed Republican Party of India leader Ramdas Athawale’s petition challenging then Lok Sabha Speaker Manohar Joshi’s decision to treat the first meeting of the House on January 29, 2004, as the continuation of the winter session that was adjourned sine die on December 23, 2003. The Speaker treated it as continuation of the winter session and not as the beginning of a new session which has to be addressed by the President, as per Article 87(1) of the Constitution.

“The business transacted and the validity of proceeding (of the House) after the resumption of its sitting pursuant to the directions of the Speaker cannot be inquired into by the courts,” it said, referring to the bar against courts inquiring into parliamentary proceedings.

Drawing a distinction between a “mere irregularity” and an “illegality or unconstitutionality” in the procedure, the bench — also comprising justices S H Kapadia, R V Raveendran, B Sudershan Reddy and P. Sathasivam — said only the latter could be challenged in courts.

“If the impugned procedure is illegal and unconstitutional, it would be open to be scrutinised in a court of law, though such scrutiny is prohibited if the complaint against the procedure is no more than that the procedure was irregular,” it said.

“No decision of the Speaker can be challenged by a member of the House complaining of mere irregularity in procedure in the conduct of the business,” the court said dismissing Athawale’s petition.

The court said, “Whenever the House resumes after it is adjourned sine die, its resumption for the purpose of continuing its business does not amount to commencement of the session.” It also took note of the fact that two general elections have taken place since then.