Government also tells court stung MPs deserved to be thrown out
THE CENTRAL government has justified before the Supreme Court the expulsion from Parliament of 11 legislators involved in last year's cash-for-query scam, saying the action was necessary to restore public confidence in the political system. And the government asserted that the courts cannot interfere in the functioning of Parliament.
Presenting the government's arguments before a five-judge Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice Y.K. Sabharwal on Wednesday, senior counsel Andhyarujina said courts had earlier conceded that the House had exclusive jurisdiction over its internal proceedings.
The government's stand is in tune with that of Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee who had argued that the judiciary did not have jurisdiction to deal with the expulsion issue as it fell within the exclusive domain of the legislature.
Eleven MPs -- including one from the Rajya Sabha -- were expelled in December last year after a sting operation carried out by a private television channel showed them demanding or accepting money for raising questions in the House.
Those expelled were BJP members Annasaheb M.K. Patil, Y.G. Mahajan, Pradeep Gandhi, Suresh Chandel and C.P. Singh, BSP members N.K. Kushwaha, Rajaram Pal and L.C. Kol, the Congress's Ramsewak Singh and RJD's Manoj Kumar. The sole Rajya Sabha member was BJP's C.S. Lodha.
In January, the MPs, except Rajaram Pal, had moved the Delhi High Court against their expulsion. Pal had approached the Supreme Court, which referred the matter to a Constitution Bench. In February, the apex court transferred all the petitions pending in the high court to itself on the plea of Attorney General Milon K. Bannerjee.
The government's arguments follows the submission of the MPs' counsel, Ram Jethmalani and P.N. Lekhi, who had said that neither house of Parliament had the power to terminate the membership of the MPs.
In its written submission to the Supreme Court, the government said Parliament has the inherent power to punish its erring members and the apex court had recognised this in the JMM bribery case of 1998. The court had then said that a member found to have accepted bribe in connection with the business of the House could be expelled. Drawing a parallel with the UK's House of Commons, Andhyarujina said the most important privilege of Parliament under Article 105 of the Constitution was to regulate its own affairs, including the right to discipline its members for misconduct.
According to the government, expulsion of a member was necessary in circumstances when the House found him/her unfit to be a member as his/her continuation would bring the House into disrepute and lower its authority and dignity. "Expulsions assure the public that those who have abused their office would not be tolerated and instil faith and confidence in representative legislatures," the government's submission said.